Report: Cancer-causing compound in air after massive Richmond scrap yard fire

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RICHMOND (KRON) — A massive scrap metal fire sent plumes of smoke into the air on Tuesday.

Now, officials say they have detected a dangerous chemical in the air.

One of the chemicals found is known to cause cancer.

Air samples collected from Tuesday’s fire at a Richmond scrap metal facility proved to be as toxic as expected.

“It’s always concerning when you have smoke–all smoke–all smoke from fires are toxic,” Contra Costa County Environment Health Department Chief Officer Randy Sawyer said.

Most concerning from the air samples collected is the discovery of the cancer-causing chemical benzene, three times over the safe limit in Point Richmond and 40 times over the safe limit across the street from the facility.

And this is likely due to what was in the scrap yard.

“Basically, they had a number of automobiles they were dismantling,” Sawyer said. “There might have been fuel left like gasoline or motor oil or upholstery and plastics inside the vehicle that could burn.”

The fire burned for some 10 hours, and residents were warned to stay inside.

Many are still contacting the county with concerns.

“We tell them if they are having symptoms now, they should contact their healthcare provider,” Deputy Contra Costa County Health Officer David Goldstein said. “Long-term risks–we are more concerned about chronic exposure to these types of chemicals and particulates than the acute event would have caused them long-term injury.”

Fire officials are still investigating the cause.

The air district is still determining if the facility will be fined for violating any regulations.

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