Dog owners have been warned to keep their pets on a lead while out walking on the beach as palm oil ‘fatbergs’ have washed up on the Irish coastline.
A ‘fatberg’ is a congealed lump of fat, and these particular ones are thought to be a result of a palm oil consignment that slipped off a ship into the English Channel about 18 months ago.
They are potentially harmful to dogs.
The warning came from Fingal County Council on Wednesday after these palm oil ‘fatbergs’ were discovered on a Dublin beach and sent to a laboratory for testing.
“Fingal County Council has issued a warning for people to be vigilant for palm oil ‘fatbergs’ which may be washed up along the coast as they can be particularly dangerous to dogs,” read a statement from the council on Wednesday.
“A number were found on Sunday at Hoare’s Rock, Skerries, and results from laboratory tests have showed that the substance was palm oil.
“The congealed substance has been turning up sporadically on beaches and coasts in England but this is the first time it has been recorded in Fingal.”
The palm oil ‘fatbergs’ can be white or else yellowish in colour and give off a scent similar to that of diesel.
Dogs are attracted to them because of their smell but they can be “harmful” to them, said a spokesperson for the council.
“The material is a solid white substance which is known as a palm oil ‘fatberg’ and they can range in size from being as small as a golf ball to as big as a boulder,” said a Fingal County Council spokesperson.
“We are asking the public to be vigilant as this substance can be harmful to dogs.”
A similar incident occurred of palm oil ‘fatbergs’ washing up on the beaches of Cornwall, England, in 2014, and several dogs died after ingesting them.
There are two main reasons as to why they are potentially fatal to dogs. One is because the ‘fatbergs’ can be covered in a layer of deadly bacteria, and the other is that they are so gelatinous that they lodge in the oesophagus.
If a lodging like this occurs, a dog may require emergency surgery to have the ‘fatberg’ removed from their stomach.
The sighting in Dublin is the first in the area and the council said they believed it was an “isolated incident”.
This story first appeared in today’s Irish Examiner.