'This is not and never was about a bonfire... this is about the naivety or stupidity of someone dumping chemical waste on a waste ground where kids play'
The father of a nine-year-old boy, who is in intensive care after coming into contact with toxic chemicals dumped at a bonfire site in Belfast, has said his son could have died.
On Wednesday night a public warning was issued by police and health officials about barrels containing an unknown substance which were left at the site at Glenwood Street, close to the Shankill Road.
Cameron Dickson's dad Harry said this is not an issue about bonfires but rather the fact that the chemicals were left in the area "where children play".
Harry said his son came into contact with the chemicals after he and his friends were playing on waste ground where there is a small bonfire site.
He said: "They came across barrels of chemicals. They were playing with them as kids do, opened them and poured them out.
"Cameron, unfortunately, was the one who sniffed the liquid. He said there was no smell off it and it looked like water."
However, just hours later he fell ill and now is in intensive care.
Harry said: "He is stable which is the best news anybody could hope for. We will just wait and see what happens."
The concerned parent said it was a close friend who noticed the child's symptoms - as he initially put it down to a chest infection.
He said: "Just be aware of where your kids are. If they do start complaining about being ill - get them treated immediately.
"I put my child's condition down initially to a chest infection and if I had left it, I don't want to think about the consequences of that.
"Thankfully - a very close and good friend caught on to his condition and I think she saved his life."
He added: "To put the record straight, this is not and never was about a bonfire. There were no fires, no flames, no fumes."
This is about the naivety or stupidity of someone dumping chemical waste on a waste ground where kids play, in the full knowledge that kids play there. Harry Dickson
Inspector Laura Kelly urged parents who live in the area to seek medical help if their children display any symptoms.
"We became aware that a young boy fell ill and was taken to hospital for treatment," she said.
"Subsequently there were some concerns that his symptoms may have been a result of coming into contact with something at a bonfire site.
"We immediately attended, given the concerns that other people may have come into contact with whatever was there.
"The site is being cleared and there is an ongoing police investigation into that.
"There is a possibility that the child's symptoms are linked to substances that have been found at the bonfire site.
"We are asking parents to keep an eye on their children.
"If they have any symptoms including redness of eyes, sore throats, coughing and any problems breathing to seek medical advice immediately. Those symptoms can take up to 36 hours to develop so there is a possibility that other children have been in and around that area.
"We are looking into how they got there and what exactly the substances are."
DUP councillor Frank McCoubrey has condemned those who dumped hazardous waste at the bonfire site.
"As we approach the summer young people are beginning to gather material at bonfire sites. There is absolutely no excuse, however, for anyone to use a bonfire site as a dumping ground for hazardous materials or to dispose of tyres."