UPL blaze exposed Durbanites to 'toxic cocktail' - report

UPL blaze exposed Durbanites to 'toxic cocktail' - report

A report has finally identified the chemical toxic cocktail Durban residents were exposed to when UPL's Cornubia factory burnt down during the July unrest last year.


The chemical warehouse was allegedly torched by looters,  causing a chemical spill that resulted in the loss of tonnes of fish, the closing of beaches, and complaints from residents about air.

The report by Airshed Planning Professionals, which was tasked by the provincial government with investigating the impact of the blaze, identified at least 62 chemicals likely to be present in the smoke.

It has revealed that virtually the entire north Durban area was exposed to high levels of hydrogen cyanide, hydrochloric acid and bromine, among other chemicals.

Residents exposed to levels of the chemicals had temporary symptoms like coughing, running nose, and tearing eyes.

A significant number were exposed to levels capable of causing irreversible or other serious, long-lasting adverse health effects.

According to the report, the most affected areas are the Blackburn Estate, Blackburn Village, an informal settlement near the factory and areas surrounding Umhlanga.

It says while the initial smoke and toxic products were relatively low at the start of the blaze, as the fire developed more of the toxins were released into the air.

After firefighters began the process to extinguish the fire, the debris started smouldering, releasing chemicals.

Some were odourless and highly irritant to the respiratory tract, and others produced a strong, sulphur-like smell.

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