Sun, Jul 26, 2009 - Page 2 News List

EPA issues warning on hazardous mosquito coils

SAFETY FIRST A toxicology specialist said people should leave the room when burning coils and recommended avoiding fatty foods, as fat is known to absorb dioxins

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A shop clerk inspects products yesterday after the Environmental Protection Administration said half a million packages of Vietnamese mosquito coils sold over the past year may contain dioxin concentrations 100 times above the industry standard.

PHOTO: WANG YI-SUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Half a million packages of Vietnamese mosquito coils sold over the past year may contain dioxin concentrations 100 times higher than the industry standard, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday.

As dioxins are listed by the WHO as carcinogens, the EPA urged consumers to note the manufacturing country before they buy mosquito coils, adding that those who have already purchased Crocodile Coil brand mosquito coils can ask for refunds from the manufacturer.

Analysis of two types of mosquito coils — Crocodile Dye-free Coil (product No. 0661) and Crocodile Light (product No. 0670) — found that they contained 423 and 348 picograms of international toxic equivalent per gram respectively.

“This is more than 100 times higher than other brands of mosquito coils,” Chang said.

The agency also conducted simulated burning tests that found the products contained 29.2 and 11.8 pg-WHO-TEQ/m² respectively, EPA Deputy Minister Chang Tzi-chin (張子敬) told a press conference.

The unit WHO-TEQ/m² is used by the world health body to standardize toxicity measurements.

While the WHO has not set a maximum for dioxins, Chang said the tests showed the coils posed a risk to humans.

If exposed to these levels in a closed room for two or three months, a person’s risk of developing cancer could increase 3.7-fold, said Yuan Shao-ying (袁紹英), director-general of the Department of Environmental Sanitation and Toxic Substances.

Though the EPA only found about 3,000 units of the products — made on March 14 — Yuan said: “The same products made with the same ingredients by the same factories — a total of about 510,000 cans — have been sold on the market for over a year.”

As this was the first time the EPA found excessive dioxins in mosquito coils, Chang said it would complete a survey of all mosquito coils on the market within two weeks and establish a maximum dioxin content for the products within a month.

To ensure consumer safety, Chang said the EPA had demanded that Crocodile Coil withdraw the products — as well as two other products also made in Vietnam — from store shelves.

Consumers who have purchased these products are entitled to full refunds or exchanges, he said.

Besides inducing lung and liver cancer, excessive exposure to dioxins can cause low sperm count, liver dysfunction, miscarriages and birth defects, said Lin Jie-liang (林杰樑), chief of Chang Gung Medical Foundation Linkou Branch’s department of toxicology.

To prevent excessive inhalation of toxic gas emitted by mosquito coils — which include dioxins and octachlorodipropyl ether — Lin said people should leave their rooms when the coils are burning and fully ventilate the rooms before they go back in.

Lin also urged people not to panic, as the probability of having consumed an unhealthy amount of dioxins was low.

As the daily maximum intake for an adult is 4 picograms per kilogram, a 60kg person can process about 240 picograms of the toxin a day, the mosquito coils’ dioxin level — at 29.2 picograms — is still far from being dangerous, Lin said.

“My recommendation is to eat plenty of fiber to boost metabolism and processing of toxins, and to refrain from a fatty diet, as dioxins are better absorbed in fat,” he said.

In response to the analysis results, Crocodile Coil spokesperson Chen Fu-hsing (陳福星) said his company would fully cooperate with the EPA in terms of withdrawing products and giving refunds, adding that the company would stop importing mosquito coils from the problematic Vietnamese plant.

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