New roof for Dome also 'toxic'

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The Independent Online
The new "environmentally friendly" covering for the Millennium Dome is also toxic, ministers will be told this week.

In a fresh setback for the controversial structure, Friends of the Earth has found that Teflon, which is to coat the roof instead of the much- criticised PVC, also poses environmental hazards. It is writing to Peter Mandelson, the "minister for the millennium", to report its findings and to demand the plans are changed again.

Mr Mandelson last month dropped the original plan to coat the roof in PVC after Greenpeace and other environmental groups threatened to disrupt construction in protest against the "poisonous project".

The move - which was partly presented as responding to environmental concern - has caused a crisis for the New Millennium Experience, the company building the dome, which has Mr Mandelson as its sole shareholder. The new Teflon-coated glass-fibre roof costs more than twice as much as the PVC-coated polyester one - and the firm contracted to build the original covering is threatening to sue for massive damages and to take the issue to the European Court.

Now Friends of the Earth has uncovered evidence that Teflon has been found to cause cancer in experiments, can cause an industrial disease - "polymer fume fever" - in workers making it, and gives off "highly toxic fumes" in a fire.

And it adds that the amount of energy and materials used to build the Dome cannot be justified when it "does not seem to have a very clear long- term purpose". The new covering will extend the life of the dome but the structure is still only expected to last for 25 years.

Tony Juniper, the group's campaigns director, said yesterday. "The dome is still not green. The New Millennium Experience responded to one issue, but, in doing so, have raised other ones. We are writing to Mr Mandelson asking him, even now, to change the plans again. "

A spokesman for the New Millennium Experience said that, in the company's opinion, both Teflon and PVC were "absolutely safe materials".

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