Young boy fighting for his life after chemical waste dumped at bonfire site

A young boy is in a critical condition in a Belfast hospital after coming into contact with chemicals from toxic waste that was illegally dumped at a bonfire site on Wednesday night (24 May).

The police were called by the 9-year-old’s mother, concerned about the material, after her son had been taken to intensive care, and have warned that other children may have been affected.

Officers and the fire service attended the bonfire site on Wednesday, where it was reported a number of drums, suspected to contain industrial cleaner for patios and driveways, had been dumped.

After consulting with health officials, a public health warning has been released for parents by the police, urging them to keep an eye on their children, being mindful of any symptoms they may display, as they may have come into contact with the hazardous material as well.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Detective Chief Superintendent Andrea McMullan said: “A young boy is currently receiving treatment in hospital after it is believed he came into contact with this hazardous substance at the site.

“We are concerned that a number of other young people in the area could have potentially come into contact with this substance and are asking parents/guardians whose children may have visited this bonfire site to closely monitor them.

“The symptoms, which may include redness of the eyes and sore throats coughing and breathing difficulties can take up to 36 hours to become visible and I would encourage anyone who has concerns about their children to seek medical advice immediately. Any clothing or skin that may have been exposed should be washed to remove residual chemicals that may be left on them.”

Shock and outrage

Ulster politicians have expressed outrage at the incident. DUP councillor Frank McCoubrey added: “As we approach the summer young people are beginning to gather material at bonfire sites. There is absolutely no excuse however for anyone to use a bonfire site as a dumping ground for hazardous materials or to dispose of tyres.

“In this case a child has been hospitalised because of whatever substances were dumped at this site. I would appeal for anyone who witnessed the material being left at the site to pass on any information to the police.”

Belfast Lord Mayor Brian Kingston added: “The police, fire service and council have secured the site and the material is being taken away. Obviously our thoughts are with the boy and his family, but this is very concerning. I have worked with the council on removing hazardous materials – including tyres – which have been illegally dumped on bonfire sites in the past.

“This is shocking but sadly an example of the many hazardous materials dumped on bonfires which should be disposed of legally and properly. It's irresponsible. I will be urging the council and the authorities to identify those responsible.”

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