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Government regulates just 0.5% of toxic chemicals: Greenpeace

2012/06/26 21:09:22

Taipei, June 26 (CNA) The government regulates just 0.5 percent of the toxic chemicals used in Taiwan and its people unknowingly live in a toxic environment, the Greenpeace Taipei office said Tuesday.

Only 298 of the 64,000 chemicals on a Council of Labor Affairs list of toxic chemicals are regulated by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) for industrial use, the group said at a press conference.

Regulations that monitor and control toxic chemicals are fragmented and although the Ministry of Economic Affairs has laws that regulate chemical labeling on products and inspections of such items, it does not take into account the harmful nature of the chemicals, said Lee Chih-an, the office's campaigner on toxins.

In addition, Lee noted that the EPA's toxic chemical regulations only ask companies to register the amount of chemicals used in products but does not exclude the use of certain toxic chemicals.

"We are unknowingly surrounded by toxic chemicals, and the government's toxic chemical controls do not monitor the sources but only the end products," said Lee. "This kind of management mechanism is passive and full of loopholes," he added.

For instance, test results by a laboratory commissioned by Greenpeace in April on 20 stationary, kitchenware and furniture items found that up to 50 percent contained nonylphenol, a chemical that disrupts endocrine secretion, Di-(2-ethylhexyl)-phthalate (DEHP), which affects the reproductive system, and tetrabromobisphenol A, which affects brain and bone development, Lee said.

The test also found that 41.8 percent of leather sofa coverings tested contained plasticizers, including DEHP, Diisodecyl phthalate and Diisononyl phthalate, said Lee.

Long term contact with sofas containing such plasticizers can lead to infertility, miscarriage or defects in infants, Lee added.

Lee urged the government to draft a list of toxic chemicals that cannot be added to items used on a daily basis, and to follow preventive principles by reassessing chemical risks and establishing a comprehensive management mechanism for toxic chemicals.

In response to the criticism, Yuan Shao-ying, director-general of the EPA's Department of Environmental Sanitation and Toxic Substances, said chemical inspections of products for daily use should be based on a chemical residue standard.

Moreover, he said, the department is currently short-staffed. However, he went on, a number of lawmakers support the concept of establishing a "chemical safety department" under the soon-to-be established Ministry of Environmental Resources, said Yuan.

(By Zoe Wei and C.J. Lin)