On October 4 2010 a Hungarian reservoir of chemical waste at an alumina processing plant burst, releasing a deluge of red toxic sludge into nearby villages.
Since then the spill has reached major Hungarian water systems. Nine are dead and about 150 people were injured by up to 700,000 cubic meters of toxic by-product. The residue has covered an area of 40 square kilometers, with prolonged .toxic effects. The largest risk to humans is ingestion through contaminated water and food supplies; resulting damage to the lungs and digestive systems could prove fatal. Other hazards are burns and irritation, particularly in contact with the eye. People in the local area have already been banned from hunting and fishing, as well as using their wells, while the area is being treated with counteracting chemicals. The sludge has a pH of 9, putting it on the same level as kitchen cleaning products, which in contact with the skin can cause anything from dry or cracked skin to burning a top layer of skin off. Arrests were made and a dam was built around the reservoir to prevent further flooding, but toxicity will be an ongoing problem until it is able to balance though sufficient rainfall.
Sources: n.a. (2010, Oct) “Hungary battles to stem torrent of toxic sludge,” BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11475361
n.a. “Hungary toxic spill plant reopens as villagers return” BBC October 2010, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11550419
Lang, Olivia (2010, Oct). “How toxic is Hungary’s red sludge?” BBC News, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11492387
Student Researchers: Ben Houck & Amanda Stockwell
Evaluator: Eric J. Ziegelmayer, PhD