BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
World 
Africa 
Americas 
Asia-Pacific 
Europe 
Middle East 
South Asia 
-------------
From Our Own Correspondent 
-------------
Letter From America 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 19:14 GMT
Sunken tanker's lethal cargo
Ievoli Sun
Four thousand tonnes of styrene are on board
By BBC News Online's Catherine Harney

Greenpeace believes that the toxic cargo on board the stricken Italian-registered tanker poses a real threat to marine life.

Four thousand tonnes of styrene, a colourless liquid used in the making of polystyrene and as a fibreglass resin, is seen as the most dangerous part of that cargo.

The chemical, which carcinogenic, is also only slightly soluble in water and very corrosive.


After initial hopes that the Ievoli Sun's cargo might remain contained as the ship sank intact, there have been reports that chemicals and fuel are now leaking.

The Guernsey authorities are playing down the seriousness of the incident and say pockets of Styrene spotted near the wreck should evaporate without causing any serious harm to the marine environment.

But Paul Johnston, Principal Scientist with Greenpeace in the UK, says a spill could spell further disaster for a coastline already devastated by last year's major oil spill from the oil tanker Erika.

'Worst case scenario'

"Styrene is our biggest concern there could be a major sea pollution incident," Dr Johnson said.

oil covered Bird
Wildlife was devastated by the Erika disaster
"The worst case scenario is that there could be a lasting affect on flora and fauna."

"The best we can hope for is that if the cargo is successfully savaged or that the styrene it comes out slowly," he added.

Dr Johnson says that although the present rough seas are good for dispersal, the weather conditions also make salvage more difficult and if the cargo escapes in large amounts a styrene slick could cause a lot of damage.

Damage feared

It is toxic and in tests on animals it can cause brain and liver damage if swallowed in sufficient quantities.

Breathing styrene vapour is known to produce symptoms such as nausea and irritation to the eyes in humans.

While styrene does not dissolve in water, it does disperse and will slowly break down into harmless by-products.

But this process could take a matter of weeks or months during which amounts of the toxic chemical will remain in the water.

Chris Finch, member of the Society of Chemical Industry told the BBC that the styrene would enter the food chain for a matter of weeks and it was possible that fish caught and eaten in that time could pose a threat to people's health.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

31 Oct 00 | Europe
Ten dead in European storms
05 Jan 00 | Europe
Oil spill damage worsens
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories