Children have been hospitalised suffering migraines, nose bleeds, sore throats and breathing difficulties in the wake of the West Footscray factory fire.
People from West Footscray to Spotswood have reported ill-health since the August 30 blaze, with many critical of the mixed messages around air quality, particularly in the vicinity of the contaminated Stony Creek.
Kingsville resident Peter Camilleri said his 10-year-old son has been sick and in hospital with low temperatures, coughing and “serious” nosebleeds twice since the fire.
“He’s had asthma for the last eight years – we know how to deal with it,” he said.
“I know his asthma back to front, this is different. It’s a wailing cough, rather than a barking cough, and his preventer hasn’t helped him this time.”
Mr Camilleri said the doctors had noted the fire on his son’s medical paperwork, but had made no firm conclusions about whether his illness was related to the blaze.
Claire Halford, who lives near Cruickshank Park in Yarraville, said she was still experiencing poor health after run-off from the firefighting efforts sent toxic chemicals downstream.
“Everyone’s had a runny nose and a bit of tightness in the chest but I’ve spoken to a lot of people whose kids have been in a worse off situation,” she said.
“I experienced the tightness in the chest, the runny nose and also a very strong sense of nausea on and off this whole time.”
Ms Halford said the EPA had warned people to stay away from the contaminated creek, yet signage was poor and the message wasn’t getting through to everyone.
“I did not feel like the initial health and safety component was handled well at all,” she said.
“They’ve been really reluctant to rope it off at all, which has quite a lot of us residents up in arms, saying it’s not safe.”
Spotswood father Phil Dean said he and his daughters were sick for three days following the fire.
Half of his colleagues at his Williamstown North workplace were also affected.
“We were feeling sick and dizzy and I’be had horrendous headaches, the kids were feeling like crap for some time,” he said.
Yarraville resident Rhonda Chadwick said she has had a bronchial cough and regular headaches since the fire.
“More needs to be done to make sure things like this don’t happen in the future.”
EPA chief environmental scientist, Dr Andrea Hinwood, told a public meeting at Footscray Town Hall last Thursday that there was little long-term risk to human health as measured particulate levels from the fire were relatively low.
“We were very, very fortunate that the plume was as high and elevated as it was,” she said.
Dr Hinwood said although asbestos sampling had come up clear to date, asbestos could still become an issue as the major clean-up gets underway.
“Measures will be put in place to make sure that there is no presence of asbestos leaving the site which might cause an impact.”
– with Goya Dmytryshchak