'Children at risk from toxic bonfire fumes' - gardai
Toxic smoke can be inhaled by children and adults if tyres, paints and plastics are thrown on to Halloween bonfires.
That was the stark warning from gardai in the countdown to October 31, one of the busiest nights of the year for the emergency services.
Gda Sgt Kevin Toner, of Dundalk, said bonfires are "a very serious threat to public health and the environment".
He appealed to people not to be tempted to let tyres or other waste go on a bonfire and to arrange for them to be properly disposed of instead.
"Smoke from burning tyres, paints and plastics can contain sulphur dioxide, lead, mercury, arsenic, benzene, carbon monoxide, dioxins and furans," he said.
Sgt Toner added that people must remember that bonfires affect everyone.
"People with respiratory conditions can be especially vulnerable," he said.
The inherent dangers of throwing pressurised aerosol containers or flammable substances on to bonfires was also highlighted.
"They can explode and injure bystanders, as well as damaging nearby properties," said Sgt Toner, who added that children who play near the remains of a bonfire are also at risk if the ash gets on their hands and into their mouths.
Illegally disposing of waste likely to cause environmental pollution can lead to fines of up to ¤3,000
The health warning was repeated by Bridget Conway, a nurse manager in the emergency department at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin.
She advised families "to be extra vigilant in relation to fire prevention and anything that could cause an injury".
Gardai are continuing to crack down on the illegal possession and use of fireworks.
Last week, they warned about a firework that looks like a golf ball with a fuse attached that can explode in the hand and cause serious injury.
The firework was found by a member of the public in the village of Clogherhead, Co Louth.
"If this firework was found by children and set alight, the consequences don't bear thinking about," said a garda spokesman.
One of the biggest concerns is illegal fireworks.