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Health tips following Southdown meatworks fire

Auckland Regional Public Health Service

Media Release

21 December 2008

Health tips following Southdown meatworks fire

Auckland Medical Officer of Health Dr Denise Barnfather says risks to public health are very low following yesterday’s fire at the Southdown meatworks site.

“People may react to smoke and dust with a cough and sore throat, or by a worsening of asthma”, she says.

“People in the affected area should avoid inhaling dust or debris from the fire. If in the path of smoke from the fire they can reduce their exposure by staying indoors, keeping their windows and doors shut. If they experience any health issues they should see their own doctor or an emergency department.”

“It is likely that asbestos was present on the meatworks site. However, initial air testing has shown that the level of asbestos immediately downwind of the fire is low and unlikely to present a risk to health. Additionally, samples taken from sheltered locations at downwind sites 500m, 1000m and 2000m distance from the fire have tested negative for asbestos. Auckland Regional Public Health Service is doing further testing to confirm this.”

As a precaution householders in the vicinity of the fire should clean away any residue from the smoke by doing the following:

- Washing down outside horizontal surfaces
- Wiping windowsills with a damp cloth
- If carpet has been affected, wipe with a damp cloth instead of vacuuming.
- Rewashing any clothes that are smelling of smoke from being on an outside clothesline.

ARPHS is making no recommendation regarding employees of businesses in the vicinity of the fire. Individuals with any concerns about returning to work on Monday should talk to their employers or contact the Occupational Safety and Health Service of the Department of Labour directly on 0800 20 90 20.

“Meanwhile all the public has to do is exercise common sense in reducing their exposure to any fire debris, keep in mind that the health risks are low from a one-off incident such as this, and seek medical attention if they have any concerns about their health,” says Dr Barnfather.


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