Data collected at several monitoring stations in Greater Kaohsiung showed the presence of many hazardous pollutants in the air that could pose health risks to the thousands of students that attend elementary schools in the city, Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan said yesterday.
The group said that open-path fourier transform infrared spectrometers set up by the Greater Kaohsiung Government’s Environmental Protection Bureau in monitoring stations at Renda (仁大) and Linyuan (林園) industrial parks had detected 34 and 42 types of chemical compounds respectively since August last year.
In addition, as many as 20 types of chemical compounds were detected at Renda in one month alone and up to 24 types at Linyuan, the group said. Among the compounds detected were dimethylformamide, ethylene vinyl acetate, 1,2-dichloroethane, 1,3-butadiene, vinyl chloride and ethylene oxide, all of which are toxic substances, the group added.
Shern Jian-chuan (沈建全), a professor of marine environment engineering at National Kaohsiung Marine University, said the levels of dimethylformamide detected by the Renda monitoring station were eight times higher than the allowable limit set by regulators. Residents in the area have even reported a bad odor in the air on some nights, Shern said.
Wang Min-ling (王敏玲), the group’s deputy secretary-general, said that there are about 45,000 elementary-school students in Greater Kaohsiung who attend institutions within a 3km radius of nine high-pollution industrial parks — including Renda and Linyuan — meaning that they are often exposed to health risks from air pollutants emitted by the parks.
The group said that the city’s air pollution problem has been worsening over the years and it urged the bureau to punish the culprits and force them to stop operations if they continue to pollute the environment.
It added that personnel at elementary schools in high-risk areas should be trained in emergency response procedures to be able to protect students and teachers if necessary.
The environmental organization also urged legislators to reinforce the Air Pollution Control Act (空氣污染防制法) and called on the Environmental Protection Administration to initiate measures to comprehenseively control pollution in the area to reduce the level of toxic compounds in the air.
A bureau official said that the air quality data could not be used as a basis on which to mete out punishment to those deemed guilty of causing the pollution, but added that the bureau would refer to the figures when conducting follow-up examinations of the industrial parks.
The official also said that the bureau would collaborate with the central government to promote better control of air quality.