Low risk to public health from Southdown freezing works fire
Saturday, 15 May 2010
Auckland Medical Officer of Health, Dr Andrew Lindsay, says the risks to the public remains low from last night’s fire at the Southdown freezing works site.
The fire, at the old Southdown freezing works on Hugo Johnston Drive in the Auckland suburb of Penrose, began about 8.10pm last night and Auckland Regional Public Health officers attended the site for risk assessment.
”We know the building has materials containing asbestos. We are conducting environmental tests this morning to assess the risk to populated areas,” says Dr Lindsay.
“It was fortunate the wind direction during the height of the fire was toward the Manukau harbour away from residential areas.”
Dr Lindsay says that monitoring of the fire perimeter will continue until the fire is extinguished.
Auckland Regional Public Health Service advises that people in the affected area should avoid inhaling dust or debris from the fire. If in the path of smoke from the fire they should stay indoors, keeping their windows and doors shut
Although risk of exposure to asbestos remains low, people may react to smoke and dust with a cough and sore throat, or by a worsening of asthma. If they experience any health issues they should see their own doctor or an emergency department.
Airborne asbestos fibres may be inhaled and pose a risk to respiratory health after prolonged exposure.
As a precaution householders in the vicinity of the fire should clean away any residue from the smoke by doing the following:
- Wear gloves when cleaning up
- Damp down horizontal surfaces with a hose
- Wipe internal windowsills with a damp cloth
- If carpet has been affected, wipe with a damp cloth instead of vacuuming
- Dispose of any cloths/materials used in cleaning up in a sealed plastic bag and then in another sealed plastic bag for disposal with other household waste
- Wash your hands and any dusty clothes well afterwards
- Rewash any clothes that are smelling of smoke from being on an outside clothesline
Employees or owners of businesses in the vicinity of the fire with any concerns should talk to their employers or contact the Occupational Safety and Health Service of the Department of Labour.
Further questions relating to public health issues can be directed to: Auckland Regional Public Health Service phone (09) 623 4600.
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