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  Greenpeace calls on officals to investigate dioxin threat
  Hamilton, July 11, 1997 -- At a press conference today Greenpeace
  toxics specialists expressed grave concern that officials are treating
  the  toxic fire in downtown Hamilton as an ordinary fire. Local area
  fire and health officials were slow to evacuate the surrounding
  neighbourhood, despite the presence of large quantities of toxic
  contaminants that are know to be present when plastics like PVC
  commonly known as vinyl are burned in fires. Officials said this
  morning that 400 metric tonnes of PVC were stored in the building.
  Uncontrolled burns of PVC result in the formation and release of
  acutely toxic materials such as dioxin and furans as well as
  large quantities of heavy metals and other dangerous chemicals.
  These chemicals will be released into the air and will be carried into
  the sewage system and Great Lakes from the fire-fighting water run
  Dioxins and furans are carried long distance in prevailing wind
  currents and accumulate in colder areas of the world such as the
  Arctic. Recent studies have shown Canadian and Greenlandic Inuit
  have substantially higher levels of dixions and furans in their
  bodies as a direct result of this phenomenon. The United Nations
  Environment Program (UNEP) is currently  negotiating a global
  treaty which will eliminate dioxins and furans and other
  persistent organic pollutants.(POPs).
  Dioxin is a  Track 1" substance under the Canadian Environmental
  Protection Act (CEPA). Track 1 is the most toxic category of
  contaminants. The federal government is developing a plan to
  eliminate dioxin, however some processes that create dioxins,
  have not been adequately assessed, including the PVC industry.
    We believe that people in the vicinity of the fire should have
  been evacuated immediately. Officials have now announced a
  limited evacuation, however the decision to exclude the hospital
  and the detention centre must be revisited. said Greenpeace
  Toxics Campaigner Morag Simpson.   The chemicals produced when
  PVC burns are amongst the most toxic substances known.  Now the
  public authorities must come up with a plan to decontaminate
  homes and public buildings. 
  Dr. Matthew Bramley, a Greenpeace chemist, called on the
  provincial environment ministry to release data on the amount of
  PVC commonly known as vinyl burned in the fire and the
  distribution of fallout from the huge smoke plume, in order to
  determine the likely amounts and impact of pollution by the
  ultra-toxic chemical dioxin.  Dr. Bramley announced a Greenpeace
  dioxin sampling program in the fire zone, and called on the ministry
  to conduct its own comprehensive sampling program.
  Greenpeace toxics specialists warned Hamilton residents not to
  eat garden produce or allow their children to play outdoors until
  comprehensive test results are known following the huge fire that has
  devastated the city s Plastimet plastics processing plant. Greenpeace
  also called for tight enforcement of an exclusion zone around the
  plant to prevent residents being further exposed to chemicals spread
  by the fire, which is still burning.
  Contact Information Morag Simpson, Dr. Matthew Bramley, (Cell)
  416-505-1792, or Royal Connaught Hotel, 905-546-8111 Rms 315/316,
  Toronto Office 416-597-8408.
  -- End --
  Charlie Cray
  Greenpeace US Toxics Campaign
  847 W. Jackson Blvd., 7th floor
  Chicago, IL 60607
  Ph: (312) 563-6060 x218
  Fax: (312) 563-6099
  Note new e-mail address: Charlie.Cray@dialb.greenpeace.org