Hungary's Sludge Could Be More Toxic Than Feared

The toxic spill fills a nearby Hungarian town on October 8, 2010.  The photo is a hand-out from Gree

The toxic spill fills a nearby Hungarian town on October 8, 2010.  The photo is a hand-out from Greenpeace. PETER SOMOGYI-TÓTH/Getty hide caption

itoggle caption PETER SOMOGYI-TÓTH/Getty

The environmental group, Greenpeace, is warning the reddish sludge pouring through three counties in Hungary carries 'surprisingly high' levels of arsenic and mercury. Five people are now dead from the flood that surged out of a alumina plant reservoir breach on Monday, burning and injuring hundreds of people. Hungarian officials say the sludge won't pose a long term biological risk to the nearby Danube River because the alkaline content in the muddy water has gotten lower. Emergency crews are working to neutralize the alkaline danger by pouring weak acidic items, such as vinegar and plaster into the river. The CBC reports not everyone believes the Hungarian Academy of Sciences reassurances about the low level of danger.

The academy can say whatever it wants,' fumed Barbara Szalai Szita, who lives in Devecser, one of the hardest-hit villages. 'All I know is that if I spend 30 minutes outside I get a foul taste in my mouth and my tongue feels strange.

Officials in Croatia, Romania and Serbia are also checking chemical levels in the Danube; the sludge may flow down to the Black Sea, hitting Bulgaria, Ukraine and Moldova along the way.

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