Thu, Jun 28, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Toxic chemicals fill environment, Greenpeace says

Staff writer, with CNA

Lee Chih-an, Greenpeace Taipei’s campaigner on toxins, holds a device used for measuring toxic chemical levels in common household items in Taipei on Tuesday.

Photo: Chien Jung-feng, Taipei Times

The government regulates just 0.5 percent of the toxic chemicals used in Taiwan and people are often unknowingly living in a toxic environment, the Greenpeace Taipei office said on Tuesday.

The industrial use of only 298 of the 64,000 chemicals on a Council of Labor Affairs list of toxic chemicals are regulated by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) for use, the group said.

Regulations for the monitoring and control of toxic chemicals are fragmented and although the Ministry of Economic Affairs has laws that regulate chemical labeling of products and inspections of such items, it does not take into account the harmful nature of the chemicals, said Lee Chih-an (李之安), Greenpeace’s campaigner in charge of toxins.

NO BAN

The EPA’s toxic chemical regulations also only ask companies to register the amount of chemicals used in products, but do not exclude the use of certain toxic chemicals, Lee said.

“We are unknowingly surrounded by toxic chemicals, and the government’s toxic chemical controls do not monitor the sources, but only the end products,” Lee said. “This kind of management mechanism is passive and full of loopholes.”

Laboratory test results commissioned by the environmental group in April on 20 stationery, kitchenware and furniture items found that up to 50 percent contained nonylphenol (a chemical that disrupts endocrine secretions which help regulate the body’s natural functions), di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, or DEHP, (a substance which affects the reproductive system) and tetrabromobisphenol A (which interferes with brain and bone development), Lee said.

SOFA SO BAD

The test also revealed that 41.8 percent of sofa coverings tested contained plasticizers, including DEHP, diisodecyl phthalate and diisononyl phthalate, Lee said.

Long-term contact with sofas containing such plasticizers could lead to infertility, miscarriage or defects in infants, Lee added.

Lee urged the government to draft a list of toxic chemicals that would be banned from items that are used on a daily basis, and to follow preventive principles by reassessing chemical risks and establishing a comprehensive management mechanism for toxic chemicals.

In response to the group’s criticism, Yuan Shaw-ying (袁紹英), director-general of the EPA’s Department of Environmental Sanitation and Toxic Substances, said chemical inspections of products for daily use should be based on a chemical residue standard. Moreover, he said, the department is currently short-staffed.

However, he added, a number of lawmakers support the concept of establishing a “chemical safety department” under the soon-to-be established Ministry of Environmental Resources.

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