Edmonton recycling facility workers exposed to toxic chemical

The Edmonton Recycling and Co-Composting Facility was temporarily closed in mid-August due to a toxic chemical that entered the facility through the waste stream. Employees became ill after exposure to an insecticide called malathion, commonly used to kill adult mosquitoes.

According to Bud Latta, with the Edmonton waste management branch, somebody probably put a partially used container of the chemical into a blue bag, or apartment of recycling depot bin, and the container probably got crushed when it was unloaded. Fumes from the chemical caused headaches and vomiting among some workers, while about five others were sent to hospital and later released.

Alberta Workplace Health & Safety issued a stop-work order on August 14. The site won’t re-open until an investigation into the incident is complete and workers are given instructions on how to avoid future exposure.

(See "Health Hazards: A shop floor view of occupational hazards at composting facilities" in the August/September 2003 edition and "Breaking down the efficiency of the Edmonton and Northumberland MRFs" in the June/July 2003 edition.)