Wed, Dec 26, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Cracker health report gets flak

TOO LITTLE:A meeting was told that a report on health risks associated with the petrochemical plant did not cover all hazardous substances or heavy metals

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Taiwan Water Conservation Alliance members hold a banner outside the Environmental Protection Administration in Taipei yesterday saying that an environmental impact assessment for Formosa Plastics’ naphtha cracker in Yunlin County underestimated the risks it poses.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

Environmental groups yesterday told a meeting at the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) that the findings of a report on a health-risk evaluation conducted near Formosa Plastics Corp’s naphtha cracker in Yunlin County’s Mailiao Township (麥寮) underestimated the health risks posed to people living in the area.

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) meeting had earlier asked Formosa Plastics to produce a report on health risks related to alleged hazardous air pollutants produced by the cracker and explain its water usage at the administration yesterday, as the company plans to expand the plant.

The company’s report said that about 169 chemical substances are used in the manufacturing process at the cracker, of which only 18 are carcinogenic, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

It added that the company has always made an effort to reduce water usage at the cracker and in the past few years has limited water use to the amount approved by the EIA. No irrigation water meant for farmers was used, it said.

Taiwan Water Conservation Alliance spokesperson Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) said that according to the regulations on health-risk evaluations, all hazardous chemical substances must be included in evaluations.

However, the company listed only a little more than a dozen types of carcinogenic substances in its report, which likely underestimates the real degree of harm to residents living in the surrounding areas, he added.

Yeh Guang-peng (葉光芃), a doctor and a representative of the Changhua Medical Alliance for Public Affairs, said that too few types of hazardous air pollutants were evaluated in the report and that heavy metals had also been excluded from the report.

Yeh also mentioned a epidemiological survey published earlier this year and conducted by a research team led by National Taiwan University professor Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), that seemed to imply a connection between air pollutants produced at the cracker with deficient lung, liver and kidney functions in people living within a 10km radius of the petrochemical plant. He asked why the results of the epidemiological survey differed from the results in the company’s report.

Taiwan Academy of Ecology consultant Chang Feng-nian (張豐年) said Yunlin and Changhua counties have always faced water shortage and land subsidence problems, and the Jiji Weir that provides water for the naphtha cracker has a serious reservoir sedimentation problem. The government should therefore reconsider the whole area’s water usage plans, rather than only look at the cracker’s water usage, Cheng said.

Some of the committee members at the meeting agreed that not enough types of hazardous chemical substances had been listed for evaluation and that the company should clarify whether the air pollutants have a causal relationship with the increasing rate of lung cancer in Mailiao in the past few years.

The convener of the meeting suggested that the company refer to suggestions made by the civic groups and committee members in preparing its report for the next EIA review meeting.

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