HOUSTON (KIAH) – As many were watching the flames and dark smoke billow from the chemical fire in Shepherd, residents in the area and even all the way in Houston were questioning the air quality.
During one of the press briefings Wednesday afternoon, officials said they didn’t detect any toxins in the air. According to Alan Rossiter, Ph.D., a chemical engineer and energy expert at the University of Houston, that statement is not unreasonable. He explained there is the possibility of some toxins in the air but just within tolerable levels according to government standards.
Dr. Rossiter reviewed the list of chemicals and quantities posted on the Sound Resource Solutions website. He said while the products are dangerous because they are flammable, they are not particularly hazardous for the general public once they combust and turn into fumes, especially in the amounts the facility handles compared to large oil refineries.
He added compared to other plant fires, on a scale of one to 10, this fire was probably a two or three.
“If those are the kinds of chemicals that are burning, yeah, you wouldn’t want to get a nose full of that burning or not. But in the sort of quantities, they’re talking about that the general public would have been exposed to it, it’s not a major hazard,” he explained.
He did mention those in the vulnerable group that are most at risk of experiencing adverse health effects are young children, the elderly, and those with breathing issues.
If you are concerned about your health or feeling ill from the smoke and fumes, do not hesitate to contact your doctor.