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Public Health defends smoke danger message

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PUBLIC HEALTH has stood by advice it gave that smoke from last Friday’s recycling plant fire contained no chemicals, after the St Sampson’s senior constable said the comments were ‘very misleading and potentially dangerous’.

The smoke plume from the Guernsey Recycling fire could be seen from space. (Satellite image created from the Sentinel Hub EO Browser)

Public Health sent out a release at 1.17pm on Friday saying that it believed ‘the smoke, whilst acrid, does not contain chemicals’.

‘It’s metal, plastic and hydrocarbons. The issue is really for people with respiratory problems like asthma,’ it said at the time.

However, parish constable Paul Le Pelley criticised the statement, saying that it undermined the severity of the situation.

‘It could have led to people not taking the fire hazard as seriously as they should have done,’ he said.

‘Saying at that time that there were no chemicals was very misleading and potentially dangerous.’

In a statement, Public Health and Environmental Health and Pollution Regulation said the point of the statement was to provide reassurance and to share the up-to-date information it had.

‘Whilst the content of the smoke from the fire was acrid, as the burning material contained metal, plastics and a likely element of hydrocarbon material, the fire was not classified as a chemical fire,’ it said.

‘This was the intention of the message issued last Friday regarding the content of the smoke and simply sought to provide assurance to the public that chemical wastes had been ruled out as a component of the blaze.

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‘There was no intent by the States of Guernsey to mislead the public. As clear information became known about what material was ablaze, the message to the public was updated.

‘The smoke plume which arose from the fire spread initially to the east of the island before turning to the south through the course of the incident.

‘This could therefore have been a potential issue for people with respiratory problems such as asthma, as would be the case from any incident involving significant release of smoke.’

Aaron Carpenter

By Aaron Carpenter
News reporter

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