Naphtha cracking plant linked to high cancer rate in central Taiwan towns (2009/12/27)
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    Naphtha cracking plant linked to high cancer rate in central Taiwan towns (2009/12/27)

    The central Taiwan townships of Mailiao and Taishee have had the highest liver cancer death rates of any area in Taiwan for years. Nearby is Taiwan’s largest naphtha cracking plant. The Yunlin County government commissioned an NTU professor to conduct research on the health risks posed to the residents of areas around the plant. Tonight, in part 2 of a continuing series, we take a closer look at the research report.

    This thick research report helped open the scientific discussion related to Formosa Petrochemicals’ No. 6 Naphtha Cracker and local residents’ health. National Taiwan University Professor Jhan Jhang-cyuan spent one year gathering information from the five neighboring townships of Mailiao, Lunbei, Taishee, Dongshih and Shihu. The report was commissioned by the Yunlin County government. It compiled information from the Department of Health, Ministry of the Interior and Bureau of National Health Insurance. The results showed an important discovery.

    Jhan Jhang-cyuan
    National Taiwan University
    If you look at the death rates from malignant tumors and lung cancer in Taishee Township from the fourth to the sixth year of operations, they’re obviously higher than the first three years. So the longer operations have been going on, the higher the rate of cancers in Taishee Township, particularly lung cancer. The rate of liver cancer in Taishee and Mailiao townships both before and during the operation period is higher than other townships we looked at. So it’s correct to say that the rates of liver and other types of cancers are high in Yunlin County, but since the No. 6 Naphtha Cracker they’ve become even higher.

    The petrochemicals industry possesses many cancer-causing agents. Among them is vinyl chloride monomer, which is a raw material for plastic and has been connected to liver cancer. The oil refining process produces byproducts such as benzene and acetic acid that have been shown to be related to leukemia.

    Petrochemical plants often emit polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are known to be closely associated with lung cancer. Professor Jhan also examined air quality reports from the Environmental Protection Administration and data from the Bureau of National Health Insurance. He discovered that more people were hospitalized for breathing difficulties when emission levels of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and other similar gases were high. There were also more deaths.

    Jhan Jhang-cyuan
    National Taiwan University
    Monitoring was performed every hour of every day for two years. The data was then applied to Taishee. It obviously showed that when the wind blew from between the northwest and northeast, (gas) concentrations would become very high. They could increase from 20 to 30 times or more above average.

    These scientific discoveries were completely in line with the experience of local residents. When the wind blew or the rain fell, their crops would suffer.

    Mr. Chen
    Erlun Township Farmer
    These (melons) can’t be harvested. It only needs to rain once and they will turn yellow and start to rot. These melons won’t grow large, all of them here. It just needs to rain once and the pollution will kill them.

    Crops like chrysanthemums will also begin to rot immediately after rainfall. The destruction of crops can be made up for by compensation payments, but human beings are a different matter. Although Erlun Township was not included in Jhan’s report, many of the same health issues are occurring there.

    Erlun Township Resident
    It might be factors such as the air or water, but we don’t have professional knowledge. If we blame the No. 6 Naphtha Cracker, they will tell us to bring forward our evidence.

    Reporters who seek the company’s side of the story always have trouble receiving a direct answer.

    Voice of Formosa Petrochemicals PR Rep.
    Generally speaking, (there are many causes of cancer). For example, even if you live in mountains where the air is very good, some people still get cancer. We don’t know why.

    Just when our investigation had seemed to reach an impasse, we acquired a copy of a survey from 2005 performed by the Industrial Development Bureau. The survey focused on the No. 6 Naphtha Cracker and the health risks of local residents. The report was marked “Restricted Reading.” It turned out that the bureau possessed relevant assessment reports years ago, but never made the results public. In our next installment we will take a look at the secrets inside the bureau’s report.
    中文 Chinese  



    [[台大職業醫學與工業衛生研究所教授 詹長權]]



    [[台大職業醫學與工業衛生研究所教授 詹長權]]


    [[二崙鄉農民 陳先生]]




    [[聲源:台塑總公司公關組 闕組長]]

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