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'Low public health risk’ after rubber factory fire in Brantford

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Air quality readings in the immediate area of a slow-burning rubber factory fire in Brantford indicate a "low public health risk," according to the City of Brantford.

The city said air quality is being tested near 321 Henry Street after flames broke out around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Brant County Health Unit (BCHU) is working with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) to monitor levels.

“The last readings conducted at 3 a.m. [Thursday] morning indicated that the levels of particulate matter in the air sampled in the immediate area at Henry Street and Garden Avenue are low and as such the MECP and BCHU do not anticipate health impacts to the public from short-term exposure to the plume from the fire,” the City of Brantford stated in a media release. “Furthermore, levels are well below the ministry’s emergency screening values.”

They are encouraging those who live in the immediate area to keep their doors and windows closed, as well as shutting off HVAC systems and avoiding prolonged periods outdoors.

Firefighters have been working non-stop since Tuesday when fire officials first responded to the scene at North West Rubber Company.

On Thursday afternoon, piles of rubber mats were still smouldering in the storage yard.

“Rubber burns very hot and it produces a lot of smoke,” said Brantford’s Deputy Fire Chief Scott Pipe.

Ryan Prosser, an ecotoxicology professor at the University of Guelph, says the faster crews put out the flames the better.

“Rubber mats burning are likely releasing toxic chemicals in the air, some of them likely carcinogenic.”

Despite this, Prosser said the public shouldn’t be too concerned about the health impact.

“It’s important for people not to overreact. I mean, limit your exposure the best you can but if the ministry says the concentration of those nasty things are low, they can be fairly confident they’re going to be OK.”

As of 8:30 p.m. Thursday, the City of Brantford tweeted that the fire had "largely been extinguished." They added that fire crews "will remain on-site until complete extinguishment can be confirmed." Hengry Street has reopened to traffic.

"Crews have worked very hard over the last few days and our neighbouring fire departments have come in and offered a lot of help and a lot of support," said Pike.

The Ontario Fire Marshall and Brantford Fire continue to investigate the cause of the fire, but they don't believe it's suspicious.

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