Albright’s toxic archives #18 Oldbury under fire #2

If the 1950’s were terrible for stinks, spills and chemical fire mayhem, then things didn’t really improve at The Trinity Street Albright and Wilson site in the next decade either.


Where else can we start than with the main chemical of concern- white phosphorus, and a serious explosion at the vicinity of the production plant. The Birmingham Daily Post article from 9th March 1960 reveals that the local brigade had a three hour fight on their hands to deal with the major hazard.

“there is always danger at this type of factory”, a fire brigade spokesman said.”

The following day March 10th 1960 Birmingham Post added further detail in that the single storey building destroyed was “near to” the phosphorus plant. As well as claiming that production had not been affected, it is incredible that the AW spinner does not even mention that they were presumably glad that no one had been killed or injured but that “we are grateful that expensive installations were saved from harm”!

There is also the comment

“The fire brigade had a lot of fumes from the chemicals to contend with. “

Perhaps one should consider that the poor buggers living around the site, who would not have had breathing apparatus to rely on, would also have had “a lot of fumes from the chemicals to contend with” , and probably the health effects too!

One wonders how close this episode came to destroying the entire site, because if the phosphorus plant had been reached, there would have been no putting it out.

Having already had leaks of toxic gases such as phosphine and phosphorus pentoxide to contend with, the Birmingham Daily Post of 27th November 1963 gives us yet another in the form of Toluene. This gas if inhaled in large doses can cause both dizziness and potentially “fatal highs”. Perhaps that is what they were trying to do to put some “atmosphere” into the otherwise terminally depressing environment of Langley. 😛

Toluene is not nice

 What is most interesting about this article aside from the fact that four firemen were injured, is the discrepancy of the two statements made by the fire service and then Albright and Wilson.

The fire brigade stated that Albright and Wilson had told them NOT to turn off the escaping gas supply for fear of explosion, yet the AW spinner claims that they had NOT said this. SO WHICH WAS LYING?

Toluene is most definitely an explosive gas , so I have no idea why the chemists were lying. What is also interesting is why so much of this chemical was detected in high concentrations in the rattlechain lagoon sediment.

Another small snippet is given in The Birmingham Daily Post of Friday 10 March 1967. Once again firemen were required with breathing apparatus to put out a “leakage” of the unnamed chemical.


These repeated incidents only provide evidence that this serial environmental polluter were at large throughout the latter part of the Twentieth Century, indeed the name “Albright and Wilson” is associated with nothing but toxic risk to the Oldbury area.

But not so concerned about trespassing their chemical risks on the local community.

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