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Voices from the Victims of Naphtha Cracker Pollution in Taiwan

Written by I-fan Lin On @ 1:10 am | 3 Comments

In Chinese, Citizen Media, East Asia, English, Environment, Feature, Health, Taiwan (ROC), Weblog, WORLD

Residents in the area of a petrochemical processing plant in Taiwan's western Yulin County [1] are at risk for exposure to several toxic air pollutants that can cause various diseases, including cancers, according to a report by researchers from the National Taiwan University. 

The comprehensive research on the impact of Formosa Plastics Group's naphtha cracker No. 6 [2], released in July 2012, found that among the pollutants to which residents are likely to be exposed is the carcinogenic [3] and liver-damaging vinyl chloride [4], which is an essential raw material in the manufacturing of PVC and other plastic products.

The findings echo those of the US Environmental Protection Agency [5], which saw “extensive” violations at Formosa Plastics' plants in Louisiana and Texas in 2009. The Taiwanese company paid a settlement worth 13 million US dollars in that case to the US Department of Justice.

The Yulin Country naphtha cracker [6] was met with public opposition over its possible health consequences from the start of construction in 1992. In 2009, the local government, which had welcomed the investment in their area, agreed to invite researchers from the National Taiwan University to conduct a three-year study to evaluate the health risk in relation to the complex.

Their damning results have inspired residents to take up a possible lawsuit against the Formosa Plastics Group [7] [zh]. Jung Sheng-Hsiung reported on the progress at public news portal PNN:

台西鄉民陳財能則說,他的父親、母親、姊姊、哥哥,甚至年僅19歲的兒子,都因為肝硬化過世,他自己也罹患肝硬化5年[…]「有人說我愛『牽拖』,但如果真的是我爸爸的『種』不好,為何我嫁去外地的三個姊姊都沒事,只有留在當地的人生病死亡?」陳財能強調,六輕讓當地居民活在威脅之中[…]如果居民為了後代子子孫孫,決定對台塑六輕提起集體訴訟,他一定第一個加入。

Tsai-Neng Chen, who lives in Taishi, told me that his parents and sister and brother and son died because of liver cirrhosis. His son was only 19 years old when he died. Tsai-Neng Chen himself also has suffered liver cirrhosis for five years […] “Some people said that I ‘imagine’ the correlation. However, if this disease is due to genetic problems from my father, why are my three sisters who moved out after they got married still healthy and fit? Only us who stayed here get sick and die.” Tsai-Neng Chen emphasized the threat faced by all the residents of the area by the Naphtha Cracker Complex […] If the residents care about their future generations and decide to file a lawsuit against Formosa Plastic Group, he will be the first one to join.

The study has also prompted other nearby areas like Chuanhua County to push for a similar investigation into their situation. Chuanhua County is located north of the plant, and when the summer south wind blows, residents fear that it might carry some of the same air pollutants with it.

Jung Sheng-Hsiung, reporting for PNN, visited the affected villages from Chuanhua County and presented a photo feature [8] titled as “The South Wind”. Jung has granted Global Voices permission to republish and translate part of his feature report.

eelfarm [8]

台西村幾乎人人都會在冬天時下海捕鰻苗。按照老漁民說法,以前入夜後的濁水溪口簡直像夜市一樣熱鬧,四處都擠滿為了貼補家用而下海撈鰻苗的村民。然而好景不常,現在濁水溪口已經沒有什麼人在捕鰻苗了;原因無他,鰻苗正以急遽的速度消失中。

In the past, everyone in the village would jump into the sea to catch eels. Old fishermen would tell you, in the old days, the river mouth would be crowded with people like a night market as villagers would catch grass eels to increase the family income. However, the good old days didn't last long and now you seldom see people fishing for grass eels. The eels are vanishing at rapid speed.

eelfarm [8]

陳金鳳61歲,前年過世的丈夫許世賢幾乎什麼也沒能留給她;除了一棟已經繳了20年房貸還沒結清的破房子,還有幾年來為了治病所欠下的負債。許世賢還在世時,兩夫妻總是一起下田耕種,但他們名下沒有任何土地,只能幫人代種領工錢,家境一直不好。民國95年,不菸不酒不嚼檳榔的許世賢突然罹患口腔癌,四處求醫也無法獲得改善,最終在100年11月轉移肺腺癌過世,享年59歲。
談起許世賢的病,陳金鳳說自己只是沒讀多少書的鄉下人,無法多做說明,但她確實對丈夫的病感到疑惑–何以一名不煙不酒不嚼檳榔的鄉下農夫,會得到口腔癌、肺腺癌呢?

61-year-old Chin-Feng Chen's late husband, Shih-Hsien Hsu, who died two years ago, did not leave her anything except an old house, for which they have paid the mortgage for 20 years but still need to pay more. And the debt for his sickness is yet to clear. When Shih-Hsien Hsu was alive, they always did the farming together. Since they did not own any land, they could only farm for others to make an income. Their financial condition was never good. In 2006, Shih-Hsien Hsu, who never smoked tobacco nor drank alcohol or chewed betel nuts, was diagnosed with oral cancer. His health condition kept deteriorating despite help from doctors. He died in November 2011 at the age of 59 after the cancer spread to his lungs.

Chin-Feng Chen said that she does not have sufficient knowledge to explain why her husband died from oral cancer. However, she wonders how a person such as her husband, who was a farmer in the countryside without any bad habits such as smoking and drinking or chewing betel nuts, died from oral cancer.

scar [8]

魏林星今年74歲,3年前左肺葉長了顆6公分大的腫瘤,才知道自己罹患肺腺癌。考量到魏林星的年紀與腫瘤大小,醫生本來擔心她體力無法負荷,所以建議不要開刀,沒想到魏林星一句「我要和你(腫瘤)拼了」,並且證明自己體力充足,這才說服醫生動刀。
現在魏林星的身上有道長達15公分的疤痕,採訪時她非常大方地褪去衣物展示傷痕,因為那疤痕對她來說,彷彿不只是病痛的痕跡,更是自我堅韌求生意志的勳章。

74-year-old Lin-Shin Wei developed a six-centimeter-large tumor in her left lung three years ago, and was diagnosed with lung adenocarcinoma. Considering her age and the size of the tumor, the doctor suggested that the cancer not be removed through surgical measures because her prognosis might not be very good. However, Lin-Shin Wei said she wanted to fight the cancer and proved her body strong enough to receive the surgery. She eventually convinced the doctor.

Now Lin-Shin Wei has a scar 15 centimeters long on her body. She was proud to show the scar to me during the interview. To her, this scar is not only evidence of her illness, but also an award for her will to live.


Article printed from Global Voices:

URL to article: /2014/01/09/voices-from-the-victims-of-naphtha-cracker-pollution-in-taiwan/

URLs in this post:

[1] Yulin County: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yunlin_County

[2] impact of Formosa Plastics Group's naphtha cracker No. 6: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1w-CfixVP4JNmhYLURUWmZSZWs/edit?pli=1

[3] carcinogenic: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxorganlisting.asp?sysid=23

[4] vinyl chloride: http://www.epa.gov/ttnatw01/hlthef/vinylchl.html

[5] Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.ethecon.org/en/915

[6] naphtha cracker: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formosa_Plastics_Group#Naphtha_Cracker_.236_.28.E5.85.AD.E8.BC.95.29

[7] lawsuit against the Formosa Plastics Group: http://pnn.pts.org.tw/main/2012/10/21/%E5%AD%B8%E8%80%85%E7%99%BC%E8%A1%A8%E5%85%AD%E8%BC%95%E6%B1%A1%E6%9F%93%E8%AD%89%E6%93%9A-%E9%9B%B2%E6%9E%97%E5%B1%85%E6%B0%91%E5%B0%87%E5%B0%8D%E5%8F%B0%E5%A1%91%E6%8F%90%E9%9B%86%E9%AB%94%E8%A8%B4/

[8] presented a photo feature: http://pnn.pts.org.tw/main/PFocus_southwind/southwind.htm

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