Sun, Nov 12, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Renwu residents at greater risk of sickness: report

By Hung Ting-hung and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Kaohsiung residents most affected by pollution allegedly discharged by a petrochemical plant in 2006 exhibit proteinuria — excess proteins in urine, an indicator of kidney illness — and are 1.89 times more likely to have a decreased estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) — the flow rate of filtered fluid through a kidney, researchers reported on Friday.

A Formosa Plastics Corp facility in Kaohsiung’s Renwu District (仁武) has been suspected of being the source of the waste, as samples matched those from the plant, but the company has denied the allegations and has not been charged with any offense.

The findings by researchers from Kaohsiung Medical University’s Research Center for Environmental Medicine corroborated a study published in online scientific journal Scientific Reports in January.

Center director Wu Ming-tsang (吳明蒼) said the results were based on data from the Kaohsiung Environmental Protection Bureau on concentration levels of hydrocarbons and chlorine in groundwater near the residential area.

Jhonghua (中華) and Jhuhou (竹後) boroughs had the greatest concentrations, Wu said, adding that significant levels were also found in Wuhe (五和), Houan (後安) and Renwu (仁武).

Jhonghua and Jhuhou residents were 1.46 times more likely to exhibit proteinuria than those in nearby Bagua Borough (八卦), where no groundwater contaminants were found, he said.

However, he added that more research is required to prove a direct correlation between the groundwater contaminants and kidney problems among residents in the affected areas, which should be conducted as soon as possible.

“Normally, decreased eGFR or proteinuria requires a follow-up within three to six months, otherwise dialysis might be required,” Wu said. “The government should encourage those living in the affected areas to undergo evaluations and follow-ups.”

Formosa Plastics criticized the results of the study, saying that it did not comprehensively assess the risks from all environmental factors and that researchers were too quick to assign blame for kidney disease to the petrochemical industry.

The company said that the researchers did not investigate how groundwater is used in the areas with contaminants, adding that they should also examine the diets, lifestyles, work environment and medical histories of residents with kidney problems to gain a better understanding of the circumstances.

Jhuhou Borough Warden Huang Chang-chih (黃常志) said that air pollution is also a problem in his borough, where 50 of its 2,500 residents have serious illnesses.

Last year, five people died in one month from their illnesses, he said, adding that the majority of the ill have breast or kidney cancer.

Pollution is a serious problem in the borough due to several factories in the area, Huang said, citing scouring baths for plastics and metals at several plants as a major contributor to pollution.

The Kaohsiung City Government said it would conduct medical checks at the borough’s elementary school next week and follow up on identifying the source of the pollution.

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