Sat, Apr 29, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Mailiao cracker linked to cancer risk: research

NAPHTHA PLANT: The cancer risk for Taisi residents rose from 1 in 1,000 from 1999 to 2007, to 8.44 in 1,000 from 2008 to 2014, and is 2.66 times that in other villages

Staff writer, with CNA

The cancer risk in a Changhua village has been confirmed to be linked to a naphtha cracker in neighboring Yunlin County, a study published on Thursday showed.

The study focused on residents of Changhua’s Dacheng (大城) and Jhutang (竹塘) townships, north of Formosa Plastics Group’s naphtha cracker.

It found that cancer risk in Dacheng’s Taisi Village (台西) — about 8km from the plant in Yunlin’s Mailiao Township (麥寮) — rose from 1 in 1,000 between 1999 and 2007, to 8.44 in 1,000 between 2008 and 2014.

The study was conducted by researchers led by Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), vice dean of National Taiwan University’s College of Public Health, from 2014 to last year. The team was commissioned by Changhua’s Public Health Bureau and the National Health Research Institutes.

Considering the latency of nine years for cancer and accounting for personal factors that could lead to cancer — including smoking and drinking — the research team told a news conference that the risk of cancer for Taisi villagers was found to be 2.66 times higher than residents in other villages in Dacheng since 2008, the 10th year of operations of the naphtha cracker.

Researchers also found that the cancer risk for Taisi villagers was 2.29 times higher than for those living in Jhutang, the team said.

The research found that “new cancer cases among Taisi residents were apparently related to the operations of the sixth naphtha cracker,” Chan told reporters.

Household registration information shows that Taisi has a population of about 1,300, although the number of people actually living there is said to be about 400.

Researchers analyzed the health data of 1,934 people with an average age of 59 and calculated their cancer risk.

The study showed that the concentration of heavy metals, such as vanadium, chromium, nickel, copper, arsenic, cadmium, thallium and lead, in the urine of residents of Taisi and Dingjhuang (頂庄) villages — both about 8km from the plant — were higher than among residents in Jhutang, about 20km from the plant.

It also found that a sour, sticky smell that Taisi residents often complained about came from high concentrations of formic acid, also possibly from the plant.

Although it has yet to determine which chemicals are behind the increase of cancer cases in Taisi, substances associated with formic acid are likely to cause chronic diseases or cancer, Chan said.

Changhua Public Health Bureau head Yeh Yen-po (葉彥伯) said his county is conducting follow-up health checks on residents with high concentrations of heavy metals in their urine, including tests for liver and lung cancer.

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said it has dispatched surveillance vehicles to monitor the air quality near the plant for at least six months to determine if the plant is releasing hazardous levels of pollutants.

The EPA said it insepcted the smokestack in December, but found nothing unusual, adding that it will carry out another check soon.

The EPA said it would draft legislation aimed at regulating levels of hazardous air pollutants.

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