A government report into the mysterious gas haze that descended on Birling Gap last summer has been released.
A major incident was declared as between 150-200 people rushed to hospital complaining of symptoms such as burning eyes, nausea, and difficulty breathing after a strange mist appeared in the area on August 27.
The toxic haze was first spotted in Birling Gap but quickly spread along the coast. Emergency services rushed to the scene and beaches were evacuated – but a mystery has clung to the events ever since.
There has been a lot of controversy since it was discovered no samples were taken at the time – so no one will likely ever know what exactly the gas was.
The report by DEFRA (the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) concludes the most likely cause of the incident was from a ship or its cargo in the Channel. It says the composition of the gas or aerosal ‘remains unclear’ but added ozone monitors detected elevated ozone levels that day.
The reactions people had are believed to have been a ‘high level of ozone’ caused by the presence of another chemical.
Convened by professor Ian Boyd, chief scientific advisor, the report reads, “Some of the health impacts were not consistent with ozone at the recorded concentrations, suggesting that another irritant chemical was present. This chemical may have caused the elevated levels of ozone.
“No sample of the cloud was taken and it has not been possible to identify the irritant chemical involved.”
Finally it says, “Unless further information is obtained, it may never be possible to identify the precise source of the release.”
Responding to the news, the town’s MP Stephen Lloyd said, “Finally I’ve been sent the official report into the Birling Gap chemical haze incident in August which saw 150+ report to the DGH.
“Suffice to say, there’s more to do. Whilst the report suggests probable cause and likely haze contents, it raises other issues. A repeat cannot be ruled out.
“I am now going to pursue the following: Funding for sampling equipment; Investigation of early warning systems; A cross party group of south coast MPs to back these calls; Better understanding of shipping traffic trends. Watch this space.”
To read the full report, visit the MP’s Facebook page, @stephenlloydebn