Tue, Nov 13, 2007 - Page 12 News List

NSC urges investigation into level of arsenic in air

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

National Science Council (NSC) Chairman Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) urged the Hsinchu Science Park (新竹科學園區) Administration yesterday to investigate reportedly high concentrations of arsenic in the air around the park.

A recent report by the Industrial Technology Research Institute (工研院) -- which was commissioned by the park five years ago to monitor air quality -- said mean airborne arsenic concentrations as high as 120 nanograms per cubic meter have been detected at one of the 15 monitoring spots, while concentrations exceeding 100 nanograms per cubic meter have been detected at six others.

PRODUCTION

Chen said gallium arsenide and indium arsenide are used in the manufacturing of some semiconductor devices, such as microwave integrated circuits as well as in optoelectronics.

Factories in the park, however, may not be the only source of the arsenic, Chen said.

He said that the burning of waste as well as emissions from iron and steel refineries may also be contributing to the high concentrations of airborne arsenic compounds.

Wind direction should also be taken into account, Chen said, and whether the high arsenic readings are constant, "chronic" or short-term should also be considered.

EXTREMELY HIGH

Kao Cheng-chung, professor at National Chiao Tung University, said that the reading of 120 nanograms per cubic meter was extremely high -- and rarely seen elsewhere in the world.

Kao quoted US Federal Environmental Protection Agency statistics showing that people who are repeatedly exposed to arsenic have elevated risks of cancer, especially lung cancer.

Ling Yung-chien (凌永健), a professor at National Tsinghua University, said it was imperative that the NSC and the Environmental Protection Administration conduct a comprehensive monitoring survey of the park's environment and a large-scale examination of nearby residents for arsenic exposure to determine the extent of the problem.

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