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Fire Behind Maine Plastics: Extra Alarm Fire for Plastics Burning Just South of WalMart on Kenosha Rd &173, Zion

Sun June 17 2012 8:42 am
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Zion Fire Rescue 3-11 Alarm Mabas Box#18-1c And Haz-mat Box 1840 At 1817 Kenosha Road Maine Plastics (Photo Credit: Tim Olk Fire Photo Unit/More Photos …).

A large header of smoke seen in Zion about 8:30 a.m. Sunday was caused by a fire involving bundles of plastic stored outside behind a plastic recycling business, just south of Kenosha Road and Route 173. A report that the building was on fire was a false report. Maine Plastics, 1817 Kenosha Road, is a plastic recycling and distribution center.

Smoke header from 3-11 fire at Maine Plastics in Zion, Illinois Sunday viewed from northwest side of Waukegan Airport (Photo credit: Justin Norris/Kevin Rodriguez).

Zion Fire Department called for a 3rd Alarm about 8:35 a.m. Sunday bringing over 20 fire departments from the Lake County region. The initial fire response was about 7:00 a.m. Sunday. Fire equipment from a number of area fire departments — as far as Palatine and Buffalo Grove — were staged at the Walmart Supercenter shopping center at the northwest corner of Route 173 and Kenosha Road.

Video: Maine Plastics fire on Sunday, June 17, 2012.

Heat stress and heat precautions are a factor for firefighters for the extra alarm fire in weather conditions of 74°F and 76% humidity at 8:52 a.m. Sunday.

While the plastics are stable, and are not hazardous materials while not burning, the smoke from burning plastic may contain chemicals and toxins that are harmful. No word was available early on the type of plastic that is burning, but burning plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC) may create dioxin. Dioxin and dioxin-like compounds (DLC) are highly toxic compounds regarded as environmental pollutants and carcinogens. Other plastics when burned may release benzo(a)pyrene (BAP) and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been shown to cause cancer.

Later the plastic family and composition involved at the fire scene was identified as containing acetal or polyoxymethylene (POM) — a polyacetal of formaldehyde — which releases formaldehyde. Polyoxymethylene plastics are hard plastics used for mechanical parts, electronic insulators, furniture parts, musical instrument parts and many other uses. The family of plastic is also known to have former use as plumbing moldings, but the parts were susceptible to stress corrosion cracking and leaks — especially in hot water.

Formaldehyde can be toxic, allergenic, and carcinogenic. Formaldehyde resins are well known for use in many construction materials, which makes formaldehyde emissions (off-gas) one of the most common indoor air pollutants — especially in new construction.

Formaldehyde concentrations above 0.1 ppm in air can irritate the eyes, nasal and mucous membranes, resulting in watery eyes. Formaldehyde inhaled at 0.1 ppm or greater concentration may cause headaches, a burning sensation in the throat, and difficulty breathing, can trigger or aggravate asthma symptoms, and can cause other skin allergic reactions.

As a carcinogen, formaldehyde is associated with nasal sinus caner, nasopharyngeal cancer, leukemia and myeloid leukemia.

Dog dishes or water bowls, etc. for pets that are kept outside should be cleaned and removed until air and smoke settles. Toxic chemicals can settle in the water that the pets would drink out a bowl. This is also a precaution for properties east of the fire scene. The wind Sunday morning was from the west, and is forecast to be as high as 10 mph during the day Sunday.

To be on the safe side, people and animals near the fire scene and east of the fire scene should stay indoors, especially if a burning plastic and smoke odor is detected.

Mutual aid HazMat Techs were called to the fire scene in Zion about 10:44 a.m. A MABAS Box Alarm was called for Hazardous Materials technicians to respond from Division 3, Division 4 and Division 5 (MABAS Map).
Maine Plastics Distribution Building in Zion Illinois on Sunday June 17th 2012, as viewed from the Walmart parking lot, Route 173 and Kenosha Road.

See also …
National Cancer Institute Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk

Zhang L, Steinmaus C, Eastmond DA, Xin XK, Smith MT. Formaldehyde exposure and Leukemia: A New Meta-Analysis and Potential Mechanisms. 681 (2–3). Mutation Research/Reviews in Mutation Research. March–June 2009. pp. 150–168.

McGwin, G; Lienert, J; Kennedy, JI (November 2009). Formaldehyde Exposure and Asthma in Children: A Systematic Review. Environmental health perspectives (Environmental Health Perspectives) 118 (3) (3): 313–7.

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