EARTH Thailand

Pregnant women most at risk in areas near Map Ta Phut estate

The Nation 02 June 2010 |  JANJIRA PONGRAI

Toxins from Rayong's Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate could cause about 16 per cent of pregnant women living within less than four kilometres of the estate to give premature birth, a report revealed yesterday.

The abnormal pregnancies could also have long-term health impacts on babies, especially their nervous systems, the report said.

A four-party panel for implementation of the Constitution 2007's article 67 second paragraph is scheduled to visit Map Ta Phut from June 5-7.

Nanthawan Vichitvadakarn, from the Thammasat University's Faculty of Public Health Science, released results of this first major epidemiological research linking people's home proximity to the industrial state and their health problems.

The study, sponsored by the Thailand Research Fund, was conducted from 2006 to 2009 on 24,890 children and adults living within 10km of the estate. It was found that those with homes near the estate had more health risks than those further away.

Pregnant woman living near the estate, especially down wind, had more risk of giving premature birth to infants of substandard weight than those not so close to the estate, the research found.

"The research found 229 women with pregnancy abnormalities who were at risk of giving premature birth according to their distance from the estate. Those living less than four kilometres from the estate had a 15.98 per cent risk, while those living in 4-7km radius had 1.04 per cent," she said.

The research also assessed people's respiratory systems by using American Thoracic Society standard questionnaires, surveyed nervous system problems by questionnaire and studied 6,800 children under 13 for long term health impacts - especially to the nervous system from pregnancy abnormality, she added.

The study also found that residents affected mostly by foul pollution smells and eye irritation suffered in relation to their living the distance from the estate, she added.

As for the impact from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that smell highly of styrene, the study found they might have an effect on people's central nervous systems.

This research could be used to give useful epidemiological information for the more accurate and precise health impact assessment, the "buffer zone" setting or the implementation of special measures to protect pregnant women, she said.

The research also suggested there should be studies on other areas in Rayong where some 297 factories release VOCs.

The four-party committee for implementation of the Constitution 2007's article 67 second paragraph will visit Map Ta Phut late this week to discuss with public and private sectors and villager representatives and brief them about what had been done so far, committee member Hannarong Yaowalert said yesterday.