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Dangerous chemicals detected at Indiana plastic recycling plant fire

The industrial fire in Richmond, Indiana. Photo: City of Richmond, Indiana

On this edition of Your Call's One Planet series, we discuss last Tuesday's fire at a former plastic recycling plant in the eastern Indiana city of Richmond. More than 2,000 of the city's 35,000 residents were ordered to evacuate because the smoke is toxic.

The fire spewed dangerous chemicals into the air, including hydrogen cyanide and benzene, according to EPA tests.

Over the weekend, EPA contractors collected fire debris that landed near schools or in parks and private yards. At least one sample has tested positive for asbestos. The agency is asking residents "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."


Judith Enck, senior fellow and visiting faculty member in the Center for the Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College, president of Beyond Plastics, and former EPA Regional Administrator with the Obama administration

Web Resources:

Inside Climate News: Where There’s Plastic, There’s Fire. Indiana Blaze Highlights Concerns Over Expanding Plastic Recycling

NPR: Residents near Indiana warehouse fire may have asbestos on their property, EPA says

CNN: The plastic water bottle industry is booming. Here’s why that’s a huge problem

The Guardian: Exxon’s new ‘advanced recycling’ plant raises environmental concerns

Verge: The massive recycling warehouse fire is a stark reminder: plastics are a pollution nightmare

The New York Times: Trying to Live a Day Without Plastic

Malihe Razazan is the senior producer of KALW's daily call-in program, Your Call.
Rose Aguilar has been the host of Your Call since 2006. She became a regular media roundtable guest in 2001. In 2019, the San Francisco Press Club named Your Call the best public affairs program. In 2017, The Nation named it the most valuable local radio show.