Wed, Dec 05, 2018 - Page 2 News List

Control Yuan to probe cracker’s effects on kids

CALL TO ACTION:The Control Yuan said it would look into control and prevention measures, adding that the nation has a responsibility to protect children’s health

By Hsieh Chun-lin and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The sixth naphtha cracker operated by the Formosa Plastics Group is pictured in Yunlin County on Oct. 5, as the group announces a plan to spend NT$4.7 billion to reduce air pollution caused by the factory.

Photo: Chan Shih-hung, Taipei Times

The Control Yuan has said it would investigate whether the Formosa Plastics Group’s industrial park in Yunlin County has violated local children’s right to good health.

Control Yuan members Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇), Eugene Jao (趙永清), Wang Mei-yu (王美玉) and Wang Yu-ling (王幼玲) are to lead the probe in light of a study suggesting that children living near the group’s naphtha cracker complex in Mailiao Township (麥寮) have an abnormally high rate of liver disease.

Tests conducted on children living in the area have found liver damage or reduced liver functionality, which is likely caused by pollution from the industrial park, researchers said.

Vinyl chloride, which is produced at the industrial park, is identified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a Group 1 carcinogen, the Control Yuan said.

Vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) is mainly used to produce polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which in turn is used to produce pipes, doors and windows. VCM is metabolized by the human body as thiodiglycolic acid (TdGA), which shows up in urine.

The findings received attention after they were published in international academic journals, the Control Yuan said.

Researchers from the National Health Research Institutes began the study in 2013, monitoring changes in the health of children in Mailiao over the next three years.

They discovered especially high levels of TdGA in the urine of children at a satellite campus of Ciaotou Elementary School in Taisi Township (台西).

Tests showed that the further away from the industrial park a child lived, the lower the TdGA level in their urine would be.

The researchers also conducted blood tests and found that 36.1 percent of the 303 elementary-school students living within 10km of the industrial park showed signs of mild liver fibrosis.

Another 25.7 percent showed abnormal levels of aspartic acid — an amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins, the research showed.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare took action to protect the children after initial findings from the study began to emerge in 2016 and the Executive Yuan at the time started monitoring the air quality in the township, the Control Yuan said.

The four Control Yuan members said they would look into the specific response and prevention measures that had been taken, and whether there has been any improvement in the children’s health since the issue was brought to light.

The nation has a responsibility to protect the health of children as stipulated in Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Control Yuan said, adding that it would entrust the four members with ensuring that the issue is properly handled.

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