Survey Studies Impacts of Rouen Fire

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France’s public health agency is conducting a survey to assess health and quality of life impacts of a September 2019 fire at a Lubrizol lubricant additive factory in the northern city of Rouen.

The study, which began Tuesday, will question 4,000 adults and 1,200 children in the northern prefect of Seine-Maritime about their current health conditions as well as any symptoms or problems experienced during and after the fire. It will also ask about their perceptions of the incident and any exposure to pollutants that it generated.

“This survey is useful because it makes it possible to collect and analyze information on the health events experienced by the inhabitants themselves at the time of the accident and its consequences – symptoms, complaints, perceptions – which are not recorded in any available source of health information,” Department of Public Health Scientific Advisor Pascal Empereur-Bissonnet said in a news release issued Monday.

No one was injured in the Sept. 26 blaze, which burned more than 5,200 metric tons of chemicals in a Lubrizol warehouse along with 4,250 tons of chemicals on a neighboring site operated by a transportation company, but the incident has remained a source of controversy. Lubrizol and the government of Seine-Maritime, in which Rouen is located, have maintained that extensive testing showed no signs of health hazards from the blaze.

Residents in the area have complained that testing and the sharing of information was inadequate, and in June an inquiry by the national senate reached similar conclusions.

The Rouen factory is classified Seveso site containing hazardous materials according to European Union regulations.

The survey will cover 122 municipalities in the area around Rouen. For control purposes, the same questions will be asked of residents in and around Le Havre, on the English Channel coast some 80 kilometers away. Preliminary results of the survey are expected at the end of 2020 or early in 2021.

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