The Health Ministry says high levels of the cancer causing substance benzene, were released into the atmosphere by the latest fire at the Riverton City Dump.

In a statement today the Ministry says an Air Quality Assessment Report has found that benzene was among the hazardous substances which were found in the atmosphere on March 13 and 14.

The latest fire at Riverton began on March 11.

The Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Marion Bullock Ducasse, says based on the test results, benzene was at the highest level ever recorded by the Health Ministry.

Dr. Ducasse says the high level of benzene is directly attributed to the fire at the Riverton Dump.

She says the Ministry considers this a significant public health issue.

Dr. DuCasse says the other particulate matter found in the air during the testing can cause mild to severe effects on the respiratory tract, including lung irritation and respiratory distress.

According to the Ministry, benzene and the other harmful substances can cause cancer after prolonged or long-term exposure.

Exposure to high levels of benzene causes drowsiness, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, headache, tremors and confusion.

Long term exposure can result in a decrease in red blood cells leading to anaemia, excessive bleeding and a reduction in the capacity of the immune system to fight infections and cancers.