Toxic Sludge in Hungary Highly Caustic

BUDAPEST, Hungary, Oct. 8 (UPI) — A toxic flood from a burst reservoir in Hungary is 1,000 times more caustic than dust at ground zero in the Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. terror attacks, scientists say.

A dam at an aluminum processing plant in western Hungary collapsed Monday, releasing a flood of toxic sludge that burned more than 120 people and killed at least five, ABC News reported. Other reports put the death toll at seven.

The mud that swamped homes, cars, roads and bridges contained byproducts from aluminum manufacturing, which uses caustic soda to turn bauxite, or aluminum ore, into lightweight metal.

The environmental group Greenpeace said Wednesday the pH level of a mud sample it took was 13 — a level more caustic than household bleach.

“A pH of 13 is about as caustic as it gets. This stuff will dissolve anything it touches,” Dr. Philip J. Landrigan at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York said.

In comparison, Landrigan said, the dust produced by the collapse of the burning World Trade Center towers, “had a pH of 10 to 11 and wreaked havoc on workers’ lungs.”

The pH scale is logarithmic, Landrigan said, “so every unit increase on the scale means a 10-fold increase in alkalinity. So this stuff is 1,000 times more caustic than the 9/11 dust.”

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