A PETITION has been launched calling for authorities to test for dioxins in the air following a major blaze at a Kidderminster recycling centre.
The petition, which has been adopted by Wyre Forest Green Party, has a few hundred signatures from people concerned about harmful substances that might have been released into the atmosphere as a result of plastic burning at Lawrence Recycling.
Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service are still dampening down at the scene of the blaze, which broke out on Sunday, June 16.
A spokeswoman for Public Health England (PHE) said it was “not necessary” to test for dioxins as the authority had a wealth of data relating to fires across the world and insisted the authority was doing everything it should.
Dr David Kirrage, a consultant with PHE’s West Midlands West health protection team, said: “We are aware there have been claims about longer-term health risks to residents affected by the fire, from chemicals such as dioxins.
“The clear scientific advice, based on experience gained from numerous fires worldwide, states that, in relation to this fire the levels of such chemicals released over the time it has burnt - and may continue to burn - do not pose any significant short or long-term risk to the health of residents.”
A meeting is taking place today to look at the risk assessments and the environmental impact of ways to manage the ongoing situation.
Stephen Brown, parliamentary spokesman for Wyre Forest Green Party, said he did not feel reassured by the authorities.
The Green Party helped to collect signatures for the petition on Friday and Saturday in Stourport High Street.
He said: “People were saying that they want to see some openness and transparency. We want to know what measures were put in place after the last fire to prevent another fire and what permits have they got?
“Lots of people have said they had headaches and sore throats and I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
“It doesn’t reassure me. We are planning on doing a freedom of information request to find out what permits they have. They haven’t learned any lessons from the last fire.”
A joint statement from Wyre Forest Green Party and Wyre Forest Friends of the Earth said: “The people of Wyre Forest deserve answers about what has happened, as well as proper safeguards to protect health.
“Presently, unless the authorities show more desire to engage with us and be more transparent, the public will - rightly - have little trust or faith in them.”
Phillip Oliver, co-ordinator of Wyre Forest Friends of the Earth, said: ”The authorities have failed to check for important pollutants.
“To say that there is no risk to health is, I think, too certain. It’s not possible. I would say every fire is different. I’m amazed that they haven’t done it [test for dioxins].”
Howard Martin, Labour parliamentary spokesman, called for a public meeting to help to put people’s minds at rest.
He said: “A petition has been launched, which isn’t instigated by politicians - it’s instigated by a bloke that’s worried.
“When you burn plastic, you release dioxins. We need clear, concise, open, honest, factual, information. If they say there is a low risk, what is the level of that risk?
“There should be the opportunity for the public to have a question-and-answer session with the three or four agencies.”
The PHE spokeswoman said a cross-agency decision would need to be made about whether a public meeting would take place.
She added: “We acknowledge that people have concerns. We are doing everything we should be doing.
“When the fire was most aggressive we were doing air sampling. We did not find anything that we wouldn’t expect.
“It is household waste - it’s the same stuff that would be in a house fire and is not industrial.
“If anything changes, there may be a need to take a different approach. We are doing what is best for the people and the environment.”
PHE also stressed that all authorities were contactable if people had concerns.