In recent weeks, there have been several reports of silver canisters being found during beach clean-ups. These items are considered extremely dangerous and must be reported immediately by calling 000. These canisters are filled with aluminium phosphide, a toxic combination of chemicals that are fatal to ingest or inhale. One of the most concerning aspects of these canisters is that they have no label, and for the curious mind they are tempting to pick up.
The most recent sighting was at Conway Beach in the Whitsundays, however they have been found in many locations around Australia. These silver canisters are used for pest control on ships, and a large spill occurred off the north-east coast of Australia a few years ago. This is a timely reminder that these canisters are still washing up, several years after the spill at sea.
What to do if you find a silver canister?
- Do not touch it. If in doubt, treat it as a dangerous item.
- Stand up wind to avoid possible inhalation and alert people in the vicinity.
- Mark the area with brightly coloured tape or sticks and record the GPS location.
- If you are conducting a clean-up activity, alert the Coordinator.
- Call 000 and report the dangerous item with its exact location.
- Fire and Emergency Services will respond with their team wearing hazmat suits and oxygen tanks.
Download the Silver Canister Safety Poster here.
Another hazardous item is asbestos, a fibrous material that usually presents as grey corrugated sheets. If suspected, do not touch the item, as inhaling the fibres can cause serious health problems. Mark the area with sticks or brightly coloured tape and record the GPS coordinates. Contact the local ranger or local council office to report the asbestos and they will advise of their course of action. Download the Asbestos Safety Poster here.
There may be other instances where you come across potentially dangerous items and the appropriate authorities need to be notified. For items that clearly pose an immediate threat to people or wildlife, such as weapons, explosives or toxic chemicals, contact the local police or ranger. When doing your beach clean-ups, please remember that safety must always come first.