Thu, Aug 20, 2009 - Page 3 News List

MORAKOT: THE AFTERMATH: SEF guarantees safety of prefab houses from China

By Ko Shu-ling and Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) yesterday guaranteed the safety of prefabricated housing donated by China, saying the formaldehyde content met national standards.

SEF Spokesman Maa Shaw-chang (馬紹章) said the formaldehyde in prefabricated houses mainly comes from the adhesives, which would be provided by Taiwanese companies.

The housing was manufactured in accordance with the design requested by the government and specifications set by the Construction and Planning Agency, Maa said.

Maa made the remarks after meeting members of the Taiwan Merchant Association in China’s Shenzhen City yesterday morning. The association yesterday donated NT$20 million (US$625,000) to the SEF.

As of yesterday, the SEF said it had received more than NT$30 million in its relief account and expects to receive about NT$70 million more.

The first shipment of the 1,000 prefabricated housing units donated by China arrived at Kaohsiung Harbor on Tuesday afternoon. The shipment was immediately transported to Chiatung Township (佳冬), Pingtung County, but was rejected by the township office, which questioned the safety of the units.

“I have read that they may be poisonous, so I am afraid to let my people live in them,” township chief Lai Hsien-ho (賴憲和) told reporters on Tuesday.

Lai was referring to media reports that claimed that after China’s Sichuan Earthquake, some pregnant women suffered stillbirths or miscarriages as a result of living in formaldehyde-contaminated prefab homes.

A shipment of 500 automatic disinfection machines, 10,000 blankets and 10,000 sleeping bags donated by China also arrived at Kaohsiung Airport on Tuesday afternoon.

Maa said the SEF and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), were both very concerned about reports on the quality of the prefabricated housing.

After inquiring with ARATS about the matter, Maa said the first shipment met the national standards of both Taiwan and China.

While Taiwan’s maximum allowed level of formaldehyde content is 0.12 parts per million per square meter, Maa said, that of China was 0.08 and that the shipment measured 0.02. The Construction and Planning Agency would inspect the prefabricated housing units to ensure their safety, Maa said.

Regarding the quality of the remaining 900 units yet to be sent, Maa said they would be made by the same manufacturer.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office vouched for the safety of the prefabricated housing yesterday, saying examinations indicated that it met the standards of both China and Taiwan.

Spokeswoman Fan Liqing (范麗青) blamed “some Taiwanese politicians” for spreading “irresponsible” rumors to “hurt the feelings of the people on both sides [of the strait].”

“It is really regretful,” Fan said.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection (BSMI) said that as the houses are made of steel sheets instead of wood, they should not contain any formaldehyde.

BSMI Deputy Director-General Huang Lai-ho (黃來和) said the bureau had inspected three of the units yesterday and the houses were made of steel, not wood.

As the issue is quite sensitive, the bureau would inspect the rest of the cargo today, Huang said.

Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Director-General of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control Hsieh Yeih-Rui (謝燕儒), said the inspection process would be in two stages.

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