UPDATE: The mysterious white substance found on some West Cornwall beaches is rancid cooking oil says Public Health England.

An update from Cornwall Counciln says that following laboratory tests, the substance has been confirmed as a non-toxic, degraded, edible oil or fat.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is looking into the matter to try and identify the source of the pollution.

Dr Femi Oshin, from the Devon, Cornwall and Somerset PHE Centre, said: “It’s reassuring that the substance has been found to be some kind of cooking oil. It has clearly turned rancid and that’s why we’ve had reports of it smelling so bad.

“While not harmful to people, it’s unpleasant, and we’d still advise people – and dog owners with their pets – to keep away from it, and allow the council’s contractors to get on with taking it away and disposing of it.”

Cornwall Council has advised that while the degraded oil is not harmful to human health, it could still be dangerous for dogs if they eat a large amount of the substance.

Dog owners have already been advised to keep their dogs on a lead and away from any deposits when walking them on affected beaches. The Council is instructing its contractors Cory to remove the oil from Cornwall Council owned beaches which have been affected and will be providing advice to the owners of private beaches on how to dispose of the substance.

Both the Council and Cory are continuing to monitor beaches in Cornwall for further deposits of the oil but anyone who sees deposits of the oil is asked to report it to the Council’s customer contact centre on 0300 1234 141 during office hours.

The public has been warned to avoid contact with a white waxy substance on Cornish beaches that is reported to have killed a pet dog, with surfers also advised to stay out of the water.

READ the first reports here.

Public Health England (PHE) is working with Cornwall Council, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Environment Agency after the foul smelling substance was found on a number of South West Cornish beaches.

The beaches affected include Praa Sands, Porthcurno and Penzance promenade and it is possible that the substance "will travel to other Cornish beaches over the forthcoming days", including Perranporth.

Samples of the substance have been taken by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and laboratory results are awaited. Early indications are that the substance may be vegetable oil-based.

Cornwall Council will be putting up signs at beaches in the affected area from tomorrow morning to inform beach users of the situation. The authority has also instructed its beach cleaning contractor Cory to remove the substance from beaches which have been affected.

The public is advised not to handle the substance and to not to bathe or surf in water where it is present.

Dr Femi Oshin, from the Devon, Cornwall and Somerset PHE Centre, said: “We are advising people to avoid contact with the substance - at this stage we are not aware of any human health issues but if you do come into contact with the substance, please wash it off using normal soap or shower gel and water and wash your clothes.

“If you’re concerned that the substance may be making you unwell or you have related health concerns, please contact your GP or out of hours GP service.”

“We are aware of reports of the substance having an effect on dogs, who may have licked or tried to eat it. We’d advise all dog owners to keep their dogs on a lead when walking them on these affected beaches.”

Signs will be going out on the beaches below – there have not been reports of the substance on all of these beaches, but they are being signed as a precautionary measure taking in account the potential for changes in weather conditions/tides etc.

  • Penberth Cove
  • Lamorna Cove
  • Wherry town
  • Gulval
  • Long Rock
  • Marazion
  • Perran Sands
  • Prussia Cove
  • Kenneggy Sands
  • Praa Sands
  • Rinsey

Landowners of privately owned beaches for them to arrange to put out the signs on their beaches.