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High Chemical Levels Detected in Air Following Warehouse Fire

Heads up, Hanoians!

VnExpress reports that levels of potentially toxic chemicals are above normal levels in the capital's air following a fire at warehouse in Long Bien District last month.

The blaze took place at a chemical workshop and warehouse in Thuong Thanh Ward on June 30 and caused several explosions. A number of containers holding around 200 liters each blew up, though fortunately there were no casualties. According to the news source, the cause of the fire has not been determined yet.

Worryingly, the municipal Department of Natural Resources and the Environment said that it has not been able to ascertain exactly which chemicals were burned or released, as it has been unable to contact the facility's manager, Cuong Viet Trading and Production Company.

However, analysis by the Military Institute of Environment and Chemistry and the Center of Natural Resources and Environment Monitoring done on July 1 detected high levels of flammable hydrocarbons such as toluene, n-Butanol, acetone, and methanol. Two days later, toluene and methanol levels were still elevated near the site of the fire.

At that time, staff from the Urban Environment Company Urenco 10 were cleaning the location, and the warehouse had been covered with sheets to prevent further chemical spread.

Nguyen Duy Thinh, a professor at the School of Biotechnology and Food Technology in Hanoi, told the news source that toluene is a liquid that easily gasifies and can poison humans in high doses: "When burned, combined with the dry and hot weather, this substance quickly gasifies and spreads over a large area, which quickly lowers its concentration in the air. As such, there would be no lasting impacts around the fire site."

However, he still advised residents in the area to wear masks and eye protection.

[Photo via Dang Cong San]