Groups attack toxic chemicals bill, want review suspension

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 - Page 4

Civic groups yesterday said the Cabinet’s draft of a toxic chemical substances control act is vague and full of loopholes and that a review of the bill at the legislature today should be suspended.

At a joint press conference yesterday, seven civic groups asked the government to modify its proposal to include full-scale management of toxic chemicals and compulsory disclosure of information to the public.

“The Environmental Protection Administration has listed 302 types of chemicals that are to be controlled, but if it loses control of the use of just one toxic chemical, it could affect thousands of products,” said Gaston Wu (吳家誠), a professor of chemistry at National Taiwan Normal University, noting that regulation of the approximately 79,000 types of chemical used in Taiwan is “full of loopholes” and that consumers “do not feel safe.”

Homemakers United Foundation president Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) said as a consumer and mother she is concerned about incomplete information on products and the inability to tell whether the chemical substances used as ingredients or components in products are harmful.

Each chemical substance should have only one official Chinese name so that companies cannot use different names to conceal harmful ingredients in their products, Wu said, adding that much of the information printed on products is too vague, for example using “lavender fragrance” rather than the more than 20 chemical substances used to make it.

“If the government allows manufacturers to use ‘commercially confidential information’ as an excuse for not revealing all the chemicals in products, then who is going to protect companies’ employees from long-term exposure to toxic chemicals?” said Yang Kuo-chen (楊國楨), a member of the Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Accidents and Diseases, adding that the act should require companies to list all the chemicals used in their products.