The Environmental Protection Agency urges any residents with debris on their property from the Indiana plastics fire to not disturb the debris and call the agency immediately, according to a statement issued by the EPA.
The agency intends to gather data on the debris, add the property to a debris collection list "and have an asbestos professional safely remove it."
"It is essential not to remove or disturb any debris believed to be from the fire as these materials may contain asbestos, a substance that releases microscopic fibers when disturbed," the agency warned, adding that not all debris will contain asbestos.
The EPA said Thursday that it found asbestos in samples of debris that fell in surrounding neighborhoods up to 1.5 miles from the fire. Asbestos can cause several types of cancer, including mesothelioma and lung, laryngeal and ovarian cancer. No amount of exposure is considered safe, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The massive fire broke out Tuesday at a plastics recycling center in east central Indiana, prompting evacuation orders and concern over air quality as it produced a towering plume of black smoke.
The fire spewed various toxic chemicals into the air, including hydrogen cyanide, benzene, chlorine, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds, according to test results from the EPA.
Hydrogen cyanide, a highly toxic gas, can be fatal depending on the dose and length of exposure. Benzene is known to cause cancers such as leukemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in some people with long-term exposure. The World Health Organization has said there’s no safe level of benzene exposure when it comes to cancer risk.
Toxic Indiana plant fire forces more than 1,500 residents to evacuateApril 12, 202302:49
Fire crews working on extinguishing the fire reduced it to a single hot spot, Richmond Fire Chief Tim Brown told The Associated Press.
"Other than that one hot spot, I consider this contained, controlled and 99% out," Brown told the AP on Saturday.