Ontario Plastics Fire

Living on Earth
The World

For 4 days last July a black toxic cloud hung over the city of Hamilton, Canada’s steel city on the shores of Lake Ontario. It was the worst fire in Hamilton’s history, and one of the worst fires of its kind in the world. The Hamilton conflagration was a plastics fire. Polyvinyl chloride or PVC, used to make plastic pipes and countless other products. And as the hundreds of tons of PVC burned it released huge amounts of toxic chemicals, including dioxin, one of the moist poisonous substances known. The Hamilton blaze was not an accident. It was the culmination of years of bungling, mismanagement, and misjudgment by a slew of government officials, and experts say it can happen again almost anywhere in the industrialized world. Living on Earth contributor Bob Carty prepared our report.

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