Thu, Jul 21, 2016 - Page 3 News List

High heavy metal levels found in Dacheng

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

More than half of the residents of Changhua County’s Dacheng Township (大城) showed high levels of heavy metals and toxins in their urine, which might have been caused by emissions from Formosa Plastics Group’s naphtha cracker in neighboring Yunlin County.

According to the results of urine tests on Dacheng residents that were released on Tuesday, 526 of 1,055 residents tested showed high levels of heavy metals, while 99 had unhealthy levels of thiodiglycolic acid (TdGA) — a major metabolite and indicator of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), which is a known carcinogen and a product of the naphtha cracker.

The test analyzed 11 kinds of heavy metals in the urine, and 52.7 percent of Dacheng residents had high levels of at least one type. The percentage went up to 66 percent among residents living closer to the cracker.

The urine samples were collected last year, while samples collected in 2014 showed 60 percent of Dacheng residents had higher TdGA levels than the median TdGA level of children in Yunlin County.

Children in Yunlin, especially those at Ciaotou Elementary School’s Syucuo branch near the cracker complex, were found to have elevated levels of TdGA in their urine.

Dacheng is close to the plant, and the township is affected by the plant’s emissions, especially when the south wind blows in summer.

The Changhua County Government funded the urine tests to assess the plant’s health effects on township residents.

National Taiwan University public health professor Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), who directed the tests, yesterday said that VCM is a first-degree carcinogen and can cause liver disease and lung cancer, and that the naphtha cracker’s production is the main source of VCM in Dacheng.

“Instead of asking residents to relocate, the pollution has to be reduced. We need central government intervention and better regulation to reduce the pollution, which affects multiple cities and counties,” Chan said.

“Residents did not expect the test results to be good, but we still felt angry when the results came out,” Dacheng self-help group director Hsu Li-yi (許立儀) said.

The government should recognize the health effects of the plant, because many studies have pointed to the plant’s negative impact on residents, Hsu said.

“It should be evident that lifestyle did not cause higher levels of TdGA and heavy metals in Dacheng residents, who have hardly changed their lifestyles in more than 30 years, but high levels of toxins being found in residents’ systems is a recent phenomenon,” she said.

The operation of VCM plants at the cracker complex should be reduced or suspended to reduce health risks, she said.

Changhua County Deputy Commissioner Chou Chih-chung (周志中) said the county government had asked the central government to establish a task force to deal with air pollution created by the naphtha cracker, and finance county residents’ medical examinations and health tracking.

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