The government’s health watchdog, the Health Protection Agency, recorded 1,015 chemical incidents in England and Wales last year, up 5% on the previous year.
Fires were the most common cause of releases, accounting for 28%, followed by chemical spills (14%) and chemical leaks (14%). Releases of vapours and gases (including carbon monoxide) were higher, at 15%.
Incidents varied in seriousness, from a major fire at a plastics factory in Corby, Northamptonshire, to broken mercury thermometers in people’s homes, the HPA said.
Report editor Dr Patrick Saunders said: “The database shows that chemical incidents don’t usually cause fatalities in England and Wales but there is a risk of short-term symptoms and health effects in some cases.”