Parents are being warned to watch their children even more closely on Bay of Plenty beaches these school holidays, as there are fears metal canisters containing a dangerous fumigant could wash up there.
A box of 14 aluminium phosphide (ALP) flasks was washed overboard from the MV Gladiator 200 kilometres off Opotiki on Wednesday night last week. after a door was left open in the ship's storeroom while it was en route from Napier to China.
There was only a small chance the 1.5 kilogram canisters had entered Bay of Plenty waters, as currents and winds were likely to have taken them further out to sea, Bay of Plenty Regional Council maritime operations manager Reuben Fraser said.
Residents need to be aware that they could wash up, and should not touch the red-and-white labelled canisters if they did.
"This is a highly toxic substance, so people should not try to pick it up or open it," he said.
"With school holidays this week it's vital that parents warn children playing on the beach not to touch the canisters, since they are small enough to attract children's interest."
The chemical generates toxic phosphine gas in contact with air or moisture, and could burst into flame.
Exposure to even low levels would cause people to feel unwell, and could also cause ringing in the ears, fatigue, nausea and pressure in the chest.
It is toxic if swallowed and high concentrations can be fatal.
Fraser said the regional council was not notified until this morning about the loss of the canisters.
"ALP is safe in the flask and is very difficult to open. If the flasks wash up we will collect and dispose of them," he said.
Anyone who found a canister should not open it, but report the finding to the Regional Council's pollution hotline 0800 884 883.
Maritime New Zealand is investigating.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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