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Fire safety: Recycling plants

There has been a recent spate of articles in the news about fires on commercial premises: factories, recycling plants and industrial sites. While fire fighters work hard to ensure the fires do not spread to surrounding properties, local residents can suffer the effects of smoke inhalation. At recycling plants, for instance, the majority of premises contain tightly stacked reams of paper and wood, which are highly combustible.  Recycling facilities that primarily deal with plastic are more hazardous in a fire as they can release dioxins into the air which are harmful to human organs. 

Many plastics are highly flammable and may result in a large fire becoming uncontrollable without warning.  Smoke produced by burning plastic can:

  • increase the risk of heart disease
  • damage the nervous system
  • cause damage to the liver and kidneys
  • nausea and vomiting
  • headaches
  • aggravate existing respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis.    

If the smoke is non-toxic and produced from burning wood and paper, the likelihood is that it will be ‘clean smoke’. Although it may not be deadly, it can still cause injury:

  • coughing and irritation to the airwaves
  • lesions and redness on the skin
  • irritation to the soft tissue around the eyes
  • shortness of breath
  • sore throat
  • hoarseness or noisy breathing
  • mucus - clear or black, depending on the level of burned particles in the lungs and trachea

If you live in the neighbourhood of a fire on commercial premises, it’s important to stay safe and avoid injury.  Here are a few tips to ensure you remain safe:

  • if possible, stay indoors
  • keep all windows and doors tightly shut
  • if you have young children try to arrange for them to stay with a relative
  • children under 11 and adults over 70 are most vulnerable to the effects of smoke inhalation
  • a rolled up towel makes a good, temporary smoke excluder
  • if you need to leave the house, use a cloth or scarf to cover your mouth to avoid inhaling too much smoke
  • keep pets indoor

If you think your health has been affected as a result of a local fire please contact your GP immediately.

If you would like more information about your legal rights following a fire, please contact one of our specialist claim handlers by completing a contact form on the website, or by calling us on 0161 838 7070