The national Cancer map released by the Bureau of Health Promotion last year shows that Yunlin County, where the sixth naphtha cracker is located, and adjacent Chiayi County, have the highest cancer rates in Taiwan. An average of 213.81 to 265.6 out of every 100,000 people die of cancer each year in these counties, 1.23 to 1.53 times higher than the national average.
Taiwan’s largest petrochemical zone is the Formosa Plastics Group’s sixth naphtha cracker in Yunlin County. The national cancer map for 2008 shows that after the sixth naphtha cracker officially started operations in 2001, there was a clear increase in the incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke among local people, who now have the highest national rates of such illnesses.
Information gathered by the American Cancer Society show that each increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 (particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in aerodynamic diameter) results in an increase of 4 percent in the general death rate, 6 percent in deaths from cardiovascular disease and 8 percent in deaths from lung cancer.
After the opening of the sixth naphtha cracker, Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), a professor at National Taiwan University’s Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene, analyzed urine samples taken from 2,000 residents of Taisi Township (台西鄉) and Mailiao Township (麥寮鄉) next to the sixth naphtha cracker and found carcinogens emitted by the petrochemical industry.
My colleagues and I strongly suspect that the high rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease in the Yunlin and Chiayi areas are linked to the sixth naphtha cracker. My experience from almost 20 years of practice in Lukang Township (鹿港鄉) tell me that the health damage caused to residents in the Changhua area by the coal-fired power plant in Taichung, together with the research related to the sixth naphtha cracker, show that no more high-pollutant enterprises should be established in the Changhua and Yunlin areas.
Taiwan is small and densely populated and it is impossible to limit pollution to townships where development is taking place. Government departments cannot control and monitor the serious pollution caused by the sixth naphtha cracker.
Knowing about the health problems and staying quiet or agreeing to development plans makes us accessories to murder. The only way to guarantee the health and safety of all Taiwanese is to say no to the Kuokuang Petrochemical project.
Yeh Hsuen-che is a physician and one of the initiators of a campaign to oppose the construction of the Kuokuang Petrochemical project.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON