Fluoride Action Network

HF/Asthma Controversy in England

Source: South Wales Evening Post | March 4th, 2002 | by Susan Bailey
Industry type: Miscellaneous

A MOTHER believes her daughter could now be suffering as a result of a chemical leak tragedy which killed her brother and his workmate more than five years ago.

Karen Tyrell’s brother Ryan Preece lost his life in a fume-filled sewer chamber in Crymlyn Burrows in October 1996, when he tried in vain to rescue colleague Robert Simpson.

Mrs Tyrell’s heartbroken daughter Jenna, then 13, made many visits to the site in the days following the tragedy to pay her respects to her dead uncle. She was never allowed closer than the police barrier, 20 yards from the pit. But a few days later the cordoned area was increased to 150 yards after 120 people were given hospital treatment for the effects of fumes.

Mrs Tyrell believes the visits paid by Jenna, now nearly 18, have had a devastating effect on her health.

Her claims follow the latest shock to hit the community – a report which reveals that levels of an asthma -causing chemical found in the air in Crymlyn Burrows are seven times normal levels.

The teenager was seeing a consultant neurologist in the University of Wales Hospital in Cardiff today.

She was being tested for damage caused by chemical exposure.

“Within three months of my brother’s death Jenna developed asthma and terrible tremors in her hands and both conditions are still with her five years later,” said Mrs Tyrell, of Mansel Street, Briton Ferry.

No-one has been able to find out why but the consultant has taken a list of the chemicals which were in the pit and will be carrying out tests to see if they are the cause.

“I believe they probably are. It is too much of a coincidence. Jenna was healthy before and there is no history of asthma in our family.”

Mrs Tyrell said she was alarmed to read in Thursday’s Evening Post about hydrogen fluoride being discovered in Crymlyn Burrows.

It was discovered during air monitoring in connection with the licence for the planned incinerator.

The Environment Agency has launched a city-wide search for the source of the chemical, which is known as a refrigerant.

“Ryan died from inhaling trichlorofluoromethane, itself a refrigerant,” said Mrs Tyrell.


South Wales Evening Post

March 6, 2002

Inquiry call over pollution

TWO sets of children living in pollution-hit Crymlyn Burrows are said to be suffering from almost identical chest and eye problems.

Residents are calling for a full inquiry into the high levels of asthma-causing hydrogen fluoride found in Crymlyn Burrows. The chemical was discovered during air quality surveys in connection with the planned incinerator and recycling centre. It was found to be seven times the normal background level and twice the level discovered in one study to cause asthma.

Now residents are coming forward with details of chronic illnesses which they are worried could be linked to the pollution.

Concerned mother-of-two Dawn Sneed, of Baldwins Crescent, said her 18-month-old daughter Kirsty, had just come out of hospital after a bout of pneumonia.

“Both my kids have been constantly ill for months with chest infections or conjunctivitis and I can’t help but think it could be linked to this hydrogen fluoride,” said Mrs Sneed.

“It can’t be good for them to be breathing this in. It has been an absolute nightmare for us and our kids’ health has to come first.” Craig and Karen Shoot, also of Baldwins Terrace, have nursed their four-year-old son, Keiran, and nine-month-old daughter, Rosie, through a series of chest and eye infections since last year.

The couple have also been ill with cold and chest problems they have been unable to shake off. “My boy is now on asthma pumps to try to clear his lung congestion and the baby has also had a bad chest.

“She has also had an eye infection like conjunctivitis on and off since before Christmas.” Stop the Incinerator Campaign spokesman Mike Ryan has now written to Assembly environment minister Sue Essex calling for an inquiry.

A Iechyd Morgannwg Health authority spokesman said: “We have urged the Environment Agency to investigate the source of the hydrogen fluoride near Crymlyn Burrows.” But he added there was no conclusive evidence to say at what level hydrogen fluoride was dangerous to health.


South Wales Evening Post

March 7, 2002

999 teams join to sue over fumes;
50 people say they were damaged during sewer emergency

FIREfighters and ambulance workers are among 50 people behind a mass legal action over the 1996 Crymlyn Burrows sewer deaths. The Post can exclusively reveal today that Gower Chemicals, Neath Port Talbot Council and the police, fire and ambulance services are all being sued for compensation.

Members of the public are also involved in the complicated civil proceedings, expected to go to trial at Cardiff County Court later this year.

All 50 claim they were damaged in some way by the tragedy in which Neath Port Talbot council workers Ryan Preece and Robert Simpson lost their lives after being overcome by fumes. Claims range from alleged physical problems to psychological complications.

Gower Chemicals is being sued by all 50.

Ten police officers are also suing South Wales Police, 24 firefighters are suing the Mid and West Wales Fire Brigade and three ambulance workers are suing the Welsh Ambulance NHS Trust.

To complicate matters further, some police, fire and ambulance workers are also suing other emergency services as well as Neath Port Talbot Council.

Alan Care, a London-based chemical-injury specialist solicitor representing the 10 police officers, said: “It is a complicated multi-party action involving 50 people and five defendants.

“As well the 10 police officers I am representing, the others involved in the action and represented by other solicitors include ambulance, fire brigade, Neath Port Talbot Council workers and some residents.

“They are suing for damages for personal injury claiming they were affected by the chemicals.” Mr Care explained emergency service workers were suing their employers because they were alleging they had not been adequately protected.

“One police officer has reported an ulcerated trachea, some have post-traumatic stress disorder. The majority have had chest problems, nausea and dizziness,” claimed Mr Care.

“The case is expected to go to trial within the next 12 months.” Gower Chemicals is disputing the allegations against it.

“Gower Chemicals is one of a number of defendants in civil actions arising from the incident in 1996,” said a spokesman for the company. “The matter is entirely in the hands of the company’s solicitors who are vigorously defending these claims.”

A South Wales Police spokeswoman said: “We can confirm 10 officers have made claims against the force. At this stage we are not prepared to make any comment.”

Solicitor Jeremy Wolfe, of Douglas Jones and Mercer, representing Mid and West Wales Fire Brigade, said: “It would be improper for us to comment as it is going through the litigation process at Cardiff County Court.”

An ambulance trust spokeswoman said: “We can’t say anything as the case is on-going and in the hands of trust solicitors.” Carole John, head of legal services at Neath Port Talbot Council, said the matter was being dealt with by the authority’s solicitors.

Seven times normal levels of an asthma-causing gas called hydrogen fluoride have been found in the Crymlyn Burrows area following survey work in preparation for the planned incinerator and recycling centre.

The source of this pollution is not known and is being investigated by the Environment Agency.


South Wales Evening Post

March 8, 2002

Question mark over gas level claims

THE Environment Agency Wales is questioning the validity of hydrogen fluoride gas readings in Crymlyn Burrows just weeks before it makes its mind up about a licence for the planned incinerator. Air quality tests carried out by consultants Jacobs Gibb in relation to the licence caused a storm when they revealed background levels of asthma-causing hydrogen fluoride over three months last year at seven times the expected amount. Residents have been complaining about chest and eye problems and are worried the illnesses are linked. Pressure groups Parents Against Incinerators and Stop the Incinerator Campaign want the decision over the incinerator delayed until the source of the gas is found.

They are also demanding up-to-date results.

“Apart from the fact that the hydrogen fluoride levels have been too high in the village for an unknown period there has been no attempt to investigate and remedy the cause,” claimed Pain spokesman Ralph Miners.

“The worrying aspect of this incident with regard to the incinerator is that the two authorities we were assured would take care of the health issues were in possession of this information and appear to have done nothing about it.

“The Environment Agency is fully aware of the normal levels of pollutants, and even if it did not know of the health effects, it should have consulted medical opinions.” He also claimed Iechyd Morgannwg Health authority had not done enough in light of the potential health hazard either.

But the Environment Agency, which has met with Friends of the Earth to discuss the issue, wants more proof about the levels. It is due to determine the operating permit for the incinerator on March 28.

A spokeswoman said: “We are asking the consultants acting for the applicant to confirm the validity of the sample results they had produced concerning hydrogen fluoride in the atmosphere.

“We have also asked agency air quality experts to use the existing data for modelling purposes in a bid to identify any potential sources of hydrogen fluoride.

“We have taken the data at face value for the time being.”


South Wales Evening Post

March 22, 2002

Chemical figures ‘incorrect’

FRIGHTENING reports of high levels of an asthma-causing chemical in Crymlyn Burrows have been grossly over estimated, the Environment Agency Wales claimed today. A report which claimed levels of hydrogen fluoride were seven times the amount expected caused outrage among campaigners. Now the agency says it has received data from consultants Jacobs Gibb saying figures quoted were incorrect.

A spokesperson said: “We are talking about small background levels, the kind you would get if you were working in a manufacturing facility.

“We are pleased to have received this confirmation that levels of hydrogen fluoride are not elevated and hope residents can be reassured there is not an issue with this chemical in their locality.” The data is available for inspection and has been placed on the public registers at the Agency’s offices at 154 St Helen’s Road, Swansea, and at Neath Port Talbot Council.

In the next few weeks the agency is expected to make a decision on a controversial incinerator planned for the area.