Greenpeace warns of toxic dust

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Jun 19, 2013 - Page 3

A test report on dust collected from 13 homes and two offices found 36 types of hazardous chemicals, half of which are not regulated by the law, Greenpeace Taiwan said yesterday.

The tests were conducted on dust collected by vacuum cleaners from homes and offices in Taipei, New Taipei City (新北市), Greater Taichung, Greater Kaohsiung, Greater Tainan and Hualien from November last year to January this year.

Rose Lai (賴倩如), Greenpeace Taiwan’s prevention campaign director, said the test results showed that many homes have been invaded by high concentrations of hazardous chemicals, and people may inhale them or eat and drink food contaminated by the dust, causing harm to the liver, kidneys, endocrine system or reproductive system.

The report found 36 types of hazardous chemicals, including eights types of phthalates (or plasticizers). For example, the average level of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) found in the dust tested was 736 parts per million (ppm) — four times the average found in England.

“Current regulations ban the use of some plasticizers in toys for children under 14 years old, but they are used in other products at home that children are exposed to,” Lai said.

The average level of short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) found in the tests was 29.8ppm, higher than the average levels found in China or England, and about 15 times higher than that of Belgium.

There are about 79,000 types of chemicals used on various products in Taiwan that may be found in most homes, such as food packaging, toys, clothes and furniture. However, the Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act (毒性化學物質管理法) only regulates the use of 302 types of chemicals, the report said.

“The scope of toxic chemical management under the current law is not enough to provide full-scale protection, so people may unknowingly be exposed to toxic chemicals that can damage their health over the long term,” Lai said. “Consumers may feel helpless because they cannot avoid these products. We can only suggest that they pay more attention to the [product] ingredients when making a purchase.”

Greenpeace said it urged the Environmental Protection Administration last month to improve management of toxic chemicals by including alkylphenols, phthalates, brominated flame retardants (BFRs), SCCPs and perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in its regulations and to set a schedule for their phasing out, but it has yet to receive a response.