Fire at the SEVESO Lubrizol facility: Which toxic substances should be given priority?


On 26 September 2019, a fire broke out at Lubrizol's Rouen industrial site. The burned premises of this plant specializing in lubricants and chemical additives contained more than 5,200 tonnes of hazardous substances.

The Seveso class facility contained many chemicals that were very dangerous to humans and the environment.

At what distances did the pollution from the fire spread?

The smoke that came out was visible from several tens of kilometres away and was loaded with soot, oils, chemicals and combustion products.
During the 14 hours of the fire, a wind of 14 to 20 km/h dispersed the toxic fumes into the center of Rouen and towards the municipalities located to the north-east of Rouen.

The fumes from the Rouen industrial accident deposited toxic ash over several hundred miles and residues were found at least as far as Lille

Soot and oil particles were deposited over several hundred miles and caused very significant environmental pollution on the passage of toxic fumes.

What are the main components of soot?

The chemicals and combustible materials that burned in the fire formed polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, including benzo(a)pyrene.

PAHs are the main markers of combustion and are a characteristic of fires.

These residues are extremely toxic. Most PAHs are known or highly suspected carcinogens for humans.

Benzo(a)pyrene (CAS 50-32-8) is one of the most studied PAHs and its harmfulness to humans and the environment is now established with certainty.

What are the differences between a domestic fire and the Lubrizol industrial fire?

The case of an industrial incident such as the one that occurred at the Rouen plant produces additional pollution compared to a domestic fire: chemicals that have burned, products of reactions between chemicals and pyrolysis products of all substances present.

The black deposits from the Lubrizol plant fire contain a mixture of soot, oil, combustion residues and chemicals that are persistent and will be more difficult to clean.

Due to the nature of the chemicals (mineral oils) contained in the burned warehouse, soot deposited on the ground and buildings contains a high proportion of oil. Compared to the soot from a conventional fire, the soot from the Lubrizol industrial site fire will be particularly sticky and much more difficult to clean.

How will soot and chemical residues contaminate homes and offices in affected areas?

The oil does not mix with the water and the pollution caused by the fire will not be easily removed by rainwater.

These waters loaded with hydrocarbons and combustion residues will be difficult to treat and will pollute the environment with these toxic substances. In conclusion, the pollution of natural soils and roads will be sustainable.

Soot and dispersed chemicals were deposited on plants and soils (soil and roads). Just walking on it contaminates the soles of the shoes. In this way, pollution slowly but surely contaminates the interior of homes and offices. The dust in the air is carried by the winds and disperses the pollution deposited on the ground.

Why is it urgent to test the pollution of your home by the toxic products of fire?

Pollution in housing will be sustainable because the indoor environment of buildings is confined.
Occupants and people using these buildings will be exposed to toxic chemicals in significant concentrations on a daily basis.

This chronic exposure is particularly harmful to fetuses and pregnant women, it is essential to limit exposure as much as possible. Exposure during pregnancy can have effects on the development and health of the unborn child. In addition, the effects of chemical cocktails are not known and poorly documented. The greatest caution should be exercised because pollutants already have individual effects on reproduction and pregnancy.

 "PAHs (combustion residues) are markers of fire pollution. The excessive presence of these fire markers in a home or office is a very good indicator of pollution the industrial accident at the Lubrizol plant in Rouen. »

Due to the medium- and long-term toxicological effects of combustion residues (PAHs) and chemicals dispersed in the fire, children and adults will also be affected by this pollution.

Since we spend half of our time in our home, if your home is located in soot fallout areas, it is recommended to test for pollution by combustion residues and to measure the level of PAH contamination in dust.


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