Four weeks after fallout covered homes and cars across a Hamilton beach neighbourhood, Ontario has identified the substance as “magnetic particles and cement materials.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP) says lab results show the “particulate fallout” contained “significant amounts” of cement-like materials like calcium silicates and calcium aluminates.
The MECP says it received some 16 complaints following the discovery Oct. 1 of what residents described as a “white sticky film” strewn across several kilometres around Lakeshore Boulevard.
Area resident Sandra Snowden said it took two tries to get rid of the messy film off her car.
Neighbour Lisa Oldfield told a similar story.
“We woke up to that mess all over our cars, our deck, our basement door, our outdoor furniture,” Oldfield said.
“We have a Jeep Patriot and Cherokee we have washed our cars two times and it rained. It’s still on parts of our cars.”
Resident Jackie Casburn says she’d had previous experiences finding “a little bit” of residue on her vehicle when she moved in some three-plus years ago, but not to the degree seen this time.
“I have a blue and orange Jeep Cherokee and it was almost a grey colour that I still cannot get off my car even after window cleaners and rain,” Casburn recalls.
Aside from belongings being covered, the residents have characterized the possibility of breathing in the substance over several days as even more disturbing.
“I had two professional car washes done on Monday, brought it home, and there was still this fine matter that was falling and landing,” Snowden said.
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“Not only on our personal homes and cars, but we’re breathing this in.”
Several other residents shared similar stories of dirty cars, windows and porches via a neighbourhood Facebook group with many characterizing what they saw as a really dusty construction site.
“We tried to rinse it off multiple times; it did not rinse off,” Snowden shared.
“It was like this white film and embedded not only into the paint, but also the glass to the windshield.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines calcium silicate as a white or cream-coloured powdery compound that is typically used in food preparation, including table salt and antacids.
Categorized as a ‘nuisance dust,’ exposure has been known to cause eye, skin and respiratory irritation.
The agency says it has never received any reported health effects in humans or animals as a result of exposure to calcium silicate.
Ministry spokesperson Gary Wheeler has confirmed the investigation is ongoing and that the agency is seeking to track the source of the fallout.
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