Farmers concerned after major fire at chemical factory
Farmers near a large factory fire in Rouen, France, last week are deeply concerned that the authorities have put a stop to harvesting of crops and sales of animal products.
On September 26, a major fire at a chemical factory operated by Lubrizol in the northern French city of Rouen resulted in soot and smoke affecting large parts of the city and surrounding areas. Schools and nurseries were closed for the next several days, reported France 24.
On the precautionary principle, local authorities called on farmers to destroy all products that could have been contaminated as a result of the fire. Food safety of these products could not be guaranteed, according to the regional authorities.
After the fire, France’s Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said she could not guarantee there would be no adverse effects of the pollution on public health.
About 100 districts in and around the city are thought to have been affected.
Farmers have expressed deep concerns about the long-term effects of the blaze, with one producer telling France 24 that he did not know if his soil would still be polluted next year.
The director of the national institute of the environment for industry said it is possible that dioxins were among the emissions from the fire, according to the same source. If this is the case, the most likely route of uptake would be by ingestion.
Normandy is an important agricultural region of France. Around 75% of the region is dedicated to agriculture, according to French Food in the U.S., with internationally renowned products including butter, cheeses, beef and apples, as well as grain cultivation.
Dangers of dioxins
Dioxins are sporadically detected in animal products, including most recently in eggs from Belgium. Feed fats and oils have, on occasion, been implicated as sources of dioxins in animal feeds, but the correct quality control procedures can effectively eliminate these contaminants from the supply chain.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dioxins are a group of chemically related compounds that are persistent environmental pollutants. Most human exposure is from contaminated foods. Highly toxic, these chemicals can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, interference with hormones, and they cause cancer.
Lubrizol says the fire occurred early on September 26 in packing and warehousing facilities at its site in Rouen in Normandy. There were no deaths or injuries from the fire, and the company says it is working with local authorities on environmental testing to ensure the safety of local residents. It appears the fire started outside the Lubrizol facility, and the causes are under investigation.
Lubrizol Corp. was founded in 1928. Owned by U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett, it is headquartered in Wickliffe, Ohio, U.S. Its products — sold in more than 100 countries worldwide — include chemicals for engines, personal care, home and workplace.