Hay which may have been contaminated by fluoride from a nearby aluminium smelter is already being fed to horses.
According to environmental assessment readings, despite Alcoa’s efforts to keep fluoride emissions under the acceptable limit, a great deal of fluoride was released into the area surrounding their Reyðarfjörður smelter last summer. The area at this time of year is plentiful with hay being grown for local farm animals. In fact, levels of fluoride that exceed the safe limit have been found in hay grown northwest of the plant, potentially affecting at least three farms in the area; Kollaleira, Áreyjar and Slétta. Fluoride, beyond certain concentrations, can prove toxic to humans and animals alike.
Geir S. Hlöðversson, the managing director of environmental matters at Alcoa, told reporters that the company takes the matter very seriously. It is believed that malfunctioning machinery is the cause for the high levels of emissions last summer, but the error was not noticed until the damage had already been done. However, he said, the company will spare no expense to respond appropriately, and tests will be conducted on the hay at once to determine whether or not it needs to be destroyed.
While hay samples are currently being tested at the behest of Alcoa, RÚV reports that at least one farmer is going ahead and feeding potentially contaminated hay to his horses anyway.
Hans Kjerúlf, a horse farmer from the farm of Kollaleira, told reporters that he was not particularly worried about giving the feed to his horses. High levels of fluoride can, nonetheless, do severe damage to teeth and bones, and can prove fatal in some cases. However, Hans says that no one has contacted any of the farmers in the area to advise them on how they are supposed to feed their animals while waiting for test results to come back.
The tests themselves are being conducted by Northeast Iceland Nature Institute.
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