18/10/2019 2 min

ANSES's opinion on the food risks following the fire at the Lubrizol plant

Following the fire at the Lubrizol plant, on 2 October the Ministry of Agriculture asked ANSES to assess the potential food risks from the deposition resulting from the plume of smoke. The Agency is today publishing its opinion on the analyses carried out on agricultural products collected from 28 September to 10 October.

In the days following the fire, animals may have been exposed to soot from the fire, by smoke inhalation and direct deposition of smoke particles on the mucous membranes of the lungs, as well as by consumption of contaminated food, particularly grass from pastures or silage that was poorly or only partly covered and on which pollutants were deposited.

With regard to plant products, any found contaminated by soot deposition were declared unfit for consumption and destroyed. Nevertheless, some production may have been contaminated by particles that were not visible.

The samples taken following the fire relate to animal products such as milk, eggs, honey and farmed fish, as well as plant products including leafy vegetables (salads, endives), root vegetables (potatoes, beets, tubers) and fruit, and livestock feed such as silage maize, hay and pasture grasses. The contaminants screened for were dioxins and furans, PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and trace metal elements (cadmium, lead and mercury).

ANSES's emergency collective expert appraisal group analysed 502 test results available as at 15 October 2019. They concluded that these results did not exceed the maximum regulatory levels, except for four vegetable samples (two leafy and two root vegetables, unwashed) out of 35, with lead concentrations above the maximum regulatory levels.

Concentrations of dioxins, furans and DL-PCBs significantly higher than those from the surveillance and control plans were found in some products: eggs, maize, silage, grass/hay/alfalfa and grain maize. Lead concentrations measured in grass/hay/alfalfa feed also exceeded the values in the surveillance and control plans. However, these values were still below the maximum regulatory levels. 

In view of the analytical results collected, the experts cannot rule out the possibility that deposition from the smoke plume may have contaminated unprotected plant products. In addition, possible soil contamination due to the fire could eventually affect crop production due to soil-root-plant transfer.

For eggs and milk, the analyses available so far show levels below the maximum regulatory levels. However, an accumulation in these foodstuffs of certain contaminants associated with the deposition cannot be ruled out, due to animals ingesting potentially contaminated soil and/or feed.

The experts therefore recommend that a suitable surveillance plan be implemented.