EARTH Thailand

Air checks point to cancer risk

Bangkok Post 23 October 2009 | Apinya Wipatayotin

The amount of cancer-causing substances found in industrial estates in Rayong is dangerously high, according to air-quality checks by green groups.

Ecological, Alert and Recovery-Thailand (Earth) and US-based Global Community Monitor visited industrial sites in the province on Wednesday to measure air pollutants.

Dangerously high levels of 1,3 butadiene were detected at the Asia Industrial Estate. The carcinogenic substance was measured at 150 parts per billion, or 33 times above the screening level set by the Pollution Control Department,

The tests also found several types of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as p-xylene, toluene, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. The substances are not on the department's monitoring lists so do not have a screening level.

Earth director Penchom Saetang said the findings point to the severity of the air pollution problem and that relevant agencies must step up measures to curb emissions of VOCs.

The activist said the groups did not detect benzene, which is usually found at petrochemical industrial sites, during the testing. "We are a little bit surprised by this result," she said.

Supat Wangwongwattana, director-general of the Pollution Control Department, conceded the problem of VOCs emissions had not yet been resolved.

"We consider it [VOCs emissions] a technical problem, which can be tackled," Mr Supat said after learning of the environmental groups' test results.

Mr Supat, however, questioned the motives of the two environmental groups.

"They have tried to present information that serves their purposes. These figures can lead to lawsuits, making the problem complicated," he said.

For example, he said, health groups claimed Rayong had the highest cancer rate in the country, but this was due to an incorrect calculation methodology.