Emergency services closed off Palmerston Place yesterday after a woman found dangerous chemicals in a basement.
The alarm was sounded because a little jar of white powder had been discovered by a woman clearing out a property.
But it was soon revealed that she was right to alert the emergency services – as the jar was marked with the words “potassium cyanide”.
The potentially lethal substance belonged to her father and is used to clean jewellery.
Her initial call was to seek advice on dispensing the product safely, only for her casual inquiry to turn into a major chemical incident as a host of emergency services screamed into the street.
One neighbour, former Simple Minds boss Bruce Findlay, was leaving his home to head for his office in York Place when he realised his street had been blocked off.
He said: “Nobody could tell me anything, except to say ‘don’t worry’, so it was confusing.
“The residents are all quite friendly here and we have get-togethers in the gardens, so I’ve probably met the lady concerned but I don’t know her personally.”
Fire chiefs described their reaction – which saw at least 16 firefighters attend the scene yesterday lunchtime – as a “normal” response to reports of dangerous chemicals.
Group Commander Lianne Noble of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said: “After the initial call at 11.51am, we immediately deployed three pumps from Marionville and Crewe Toll stations, plus an incident support vehicle and a detection identification and monitoring team from McDonald Road.
“This is our normal response when any member of the public tells us they have dangerous chemicals requiring disposal, regardless of the storage conditions. To ensure public safety we take no chances and that’s why the street was closed and a cordon put in place.”
Dr Michael Cowley, who teaches chemistry at Edinburgh University, said the chemical would only have caused damage had it been consumed.
He said: “It sounds to me like this was a small quantity used for electroplating, perhaps by a jeweller. It’s not particularly dangerous unless inhaled or eaten, in which case half a gramme would kill you.”