UPDATED: Public Health Information - Park Ave. Warehouse Fire

Asbestos demolition notification issued.

November 17, 2017 | 8 min reading time

Update 11/29/17 4:30 p.m.

An asbestos demolition notification has been issued for Spirtas Wrecking Company. Demolition to start on 11/27/17 with a completion date of 12/01/17.

Update: 11/21/17 4:30 p.m.

Laboratory results from the fire debris collected by the EPA from the Park Avenue fire are now available on the Department of Health website.

Seventy-seven of the eighty samples tested showed no signs of asbestos in the neighborhoods south and southeast of the warehouse. Three samples found within 50 feet of the warehouse structure tested positive for asbestos. 

A map of the testing locations is available in the update listed below. 

Update: 11/21/17 8:30 a.m.

The St. Louis Fire Department reported a first alarm fire on Wednesday, November 15, 2017, at 10:26 a.m.

By early afternoon the Department of Health (DOH) was assessing the situation to determine next steps, based on the known materials in the fire. Dr. Thomas Zink, Senior Medical Advisor for the DOH, began responding to press inquiries late Wednesday afternoon. He did on-camera interviews from the site with KSDK and KMOV Thursday morning between 6 and 6:30 a.m.  DOH waited on the Fire Department to receive an update on their assessment of the materials other than citronella and possibly books in the fire. DOH reached out to the after-hours team at Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) to see if DOH could find out any information regarding this particular building.  Unless there had been some renovations to the building MDNR would not have any knowledge of potentially hazardous materials in or on the building.

DOH was made aware that EPA reached to MDNR and offered to assist if they were needed. The Fire Department has been the lead on this situation and DOH depended on their assessment before moving forward.

DOH Epidemiologist contacted the hospitals regarding any emergency care related to the fire and researched information relevant to respiratory concerns. Nothing unusual was reported.

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Citronella facts

What is Citronella?

Oil of Citronella is created from two grass varieties. It is generally used as an insect and animal repellent and has a non-toxic mode of action. It repels pests by masking scents that they are usually attracted to. It is a registered pesticide by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, since 1948. Oil of citronella can be found in sprays, lotions, candles, pellets, and even sunscreen products.

Information from:

Bond, C.; Buhl, K.; Stone, D. 2013. Citronella General Fact Sheet; National Pesticide Information Center, Oregon State University Extension Services. http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/citronellagen.html

US EPA R.E.D Facts, Oil of Citronella, https://www3.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/reg_actions/reregistration/fs_PC-021901_1-Feb-97.pdf

How can I be exposed?

Since oil of citronella is generally found in sprays, lotions, candles, and other repellent products, exposure is generally to the skin, respiratory system or eyes. Products are applied to the skin, however, when sprayed, they may enter the eyes and respiratory system. If consumers are not careful to wash their hands after application, they may accidentally ingest a small amount when eating.

Is it harmful? What are the health effects?

For short term exposures, oil of citronella can be irritating to the eyes and skin. People may experience throat irritation or may even experience a cough if ingested. If eaten, the major components of oil of citronella are broken down and exit the body in our urine.

In general, children can be more sensitive to pesticides. Products with oil of citronella should not be used on children under 6 months of age unless advised by a physician. However, per the US EPA, oil of citronella is not expected to pose a risk to people, including our sensitive populations.

The US EPA reports that “Oil of Citronella has been used extensively since 1948 without any reports of adverse effects of concern”. Additionally, because oil of citronella has been considered so unlikely to cause harm that some citronella products are exempt from normal EPA regulation (although they are still registered). (https://www3.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/reg_actions/registration/fs_PC-021901_01-Nov-99.pdf) .

Information from:

Bond, C.; Buhl, K.; Stone, D. 2013. Citronella General Fact Sheet; National Pesticide Information Center, Oregon State University Extension Services. http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/citronellagen.html

EPA Citronella (Oil of Citronella) Fact Sheet, https://www3.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/reg_actions/registration/fs_PC-021901_01-Nov-99.pdf

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On Thursday, November 16, 2017, Director Moore spoke with Fire Chief Jenkerson and he said air monitoring began when they arrived on site yesterday.  Hazmat was also notified on the first alarm.  Air monitoring readings had high levels of Carbon Monoxide (CO), the particulate matter levels had started to drop on Wednesday.  On Thursday morning the (CO) had increased.  Air monitoring continued.

DOH shared the link from the interviews by Dr. Zink with several citizens who inquired about safety.  DOH continued to share the Fire Department messages.  Environmental Health assessed the food establishments in the vicinity of the fire to reassure the Botanical Heights community of DOH presence and monitoring of the situation as well as working with other agencies.  DOH continued to follow the Fire Department's lead and was prepared to assist if needed.

DOH requested assistance from MDNR, which in turn contacted EPA for support. John Frey from EPA along with a contractor, Heath Smith, scheduled to begin bulk sampling of any building/fire debris to determine if there is any asbestos present on Friday, November 17, 2017.

David Bryan (PIO) from EPA assumed contact with Captain Garon Mosby to draft a small statement about EPA involvement with the asbestos sampling.

On Friday, November 17, 2017, EPA staff, Heath Smith, collected 21 samples of fire debris from around the immediate public areas of the fire site.  Three (3) of these samples resulted in asbestos concentrations between 5 and 20 percent chrysotile asbestos. As a result of these sample results, DOH requested that MDNR request further sampling and assessment by EPA of the neighborhoods downwind of the fire.

On Saturday, November 18, 2017, EPA staff, led by Heath Smith, and MDNR staff, led by Dorothy Franklin, met with DOH staff, Harold Bailey, and mapped out this additional sampling area. An additional 59 samples of fire debris were collected from the areas shown on the map on the last page of this document.

This press release was issued on Sunday, November 19, 2017:

Preliminary EPA Fire Debris Sample Collections Complete

Lab Results Scheduled to be Available to Report on Monday Evening

The EPA has completed preliminary sample collections of fire debris in the neighborhood around the Park Avenue Warehouse. Eighty (80) samples were collected and have been submitted to the laboratory for analysis for evidence of asbestos.

Based upon lessons learned from the spring Clemens House fire in the St. Louis Place Neighborhood and the age of the Park Ave. warehouse, the City of St. Louis Department of Health and Missouri Department of Natural Resources decided to take the precautionary measure of making the request to the EPA to conduct the analysis.

The laboratory results are scheduled to be available in time to be reported to the residents in the neighborhood around the warehouse Monday, November 20th, at 7:00 p.m., at the Shaw Neighborhood Association meeting. The meeting will be held at the Missouri School for the Blind, at 3815 Magnolia Ave.

Historically, the chance of developing harmful health effects due to exposure to asbestos-containing materials requires prolonged (as in multiple years) exposure. Health risk from short-term encounters with asbestos-containing materials is almost negligible.

No asbestos was found in any of the samples collected Saturday from the residential areas south and southeast of the warehouse. 

The site map below shows the location of the three samples from the first batch (collected on 11/17/17) that tested positive (red bullseyes) and all of the samples that tested negative (white bullseyes). The three samples collected Friday 11/17/17, that tested positive for asbestos, were of larger material found less than 50 feet from the warehouse in and around building rubble. This material likely fell from the building. All of the charred debris ejected during the fire and scattered downwind tested negative for asbestos.

A very appropriate and authoritative study from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health entitled "Community Health Risk Assessment After a Fire with Asbestos Containing Fallout," was identified by Dr. Zink to clarify any concerns regarding the fire. This study was done after a large fire in Tranmere, Merseyside, England deposited asbestos-containing fallout in an urban area.  In this study, the lung cancer risk is estimated to be undetectably low using methods likely to over-estimate risks.  The risk of mesothelioma, a cancer almost exclusively associated with asbestos exposure, was found to be even less.

Next steps by the DOH include providing reporting documents to neighborhood meetings in the vicinity of the fire, sharing information with elected officials, and posting updates on the DOH website.

EPA Testing sites from 3937 Park Avenue warehouse fire

 

Update: 11/19/17 10:00 a.m.

Preliminary EPA Fire Debris Sample Collections Complete Lab Results Scheduled to be Available to Report on Monday Evening

The EPA has completed preliminary sample collections of fire debris in the neighborhood around the Park Avenue Warehouse. Eighty (80) samples were collected and have been submitted to the laboratory for analysis for evidence of asbestos.

Based upon lessons learned from the spring Clemens House fire in the St. Louis Place Neighborhood and the age of the Park Ave. warehouse, the City of St. Louis Department of Health and Missouri Department of Natural Resources decided to take the precautionary measure of making the request to the EPA to conduct the analysis.

The laboratory results are scheduled to be available in time to be reported to the residents in the neighborhood around the warehouse Monday, November 20th, at 7:00 p.m., at the Shaw Neighborhood Association meeting. The meeting will be held at the Missouri School for the Blind, at 3815 Magnolia Ave.

Historically, the chance of developing harmful health effects due to exposure to asbestos-containing materials requires prolonged (as in multiple years) exposure. Health risk from short-term encounters with asbestos-containing materials is almost negligible.  

Update: 11/18/17 9:45 a.m.

The St. Louis Fire Department continues to serve as the lead agency in response efforts associated with the Park Avenue Warehouse fire that began on Wednesday, November 15. St. Louis City officials are cautioning the public to not enter the Warehouse property and to stay away from the perimeter of the site.  The ground debris and the remaining structure are unstable.

Update: 11/17/17 1:00 p.m.

Representatives from the EPA are at the Park Avenue Warehouse fire today. They are collecting samples to determine if there is evidence of asbestos in the debris of the fire. 

Residents are being advised to not handle debris from the fire. This includes any material which looks like ash or paper which crumbles to dust upon contact. This is precautionary - until it can be determined that there is no evidence of asbestos. We want to err on the side of precaution until it can be determined that there is no evidence of asbestos in the debris.

Historically, the chance of developing harmful health effects due to exposure to asbestos-containing materials requires prolonged (as in multiple years) exposure. Health risk from short-term encounters with asbestos-containing materials is almost negligible.  

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11/16/17 5:45 p.m.

As of noon on November 16, the fire that started Wednesday morning, November 15 continues to smolder and the St. Louis Fire Department remains the lead agency in response to this active fire. Air monitoring has been conducted by the Fire Department since the Department arrived on the scene yesterday. The testing detected carbon monoxide (CO). The Centers for Disease and Control state the most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like.”

On November 16, in consultation with the Fire Department, the City of St. Louis Department of Health made a request to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct sampling for asbestos. Representatives from the EPA plan to visit the site and begin collecting test samples on Friday, November 17.

Products of combustion are very irritable to the breathing system (nose, lungs, oral cavity and bronchial tubes). Based on what’s currently known, public health officials are reporting there is a minimal risk to public health of persons not in the path of the smoke plume.

Residents in the area of the fire are being advised to limit their exposure to the smoke by staying indoors, and if they go outside, to wear a mask or leave the area as quickly as possible. HVAC systems can also be a means of taking smoke into the home, so the systems should be shut down or their use limited.

Residents with questions can contact Heather Gasama at the Department of Health at (314) 657-1492.

  • Department:
    Department of Health
  • Topic:
    Health
    Environmental Protection

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