EARTH Thailand

EARTH at BioDetector Conference in Prague – “Citizen Science Creates Empowered Community”

EARTH REPORT 14 September 2022 

EARTH - Thailand presents citizen science project in Thailand at BioDetectors Conference in Prague, Czech Republic

Akarapon Teebthaisong, Research and Technical Officer from Ecological Alert and Recovery – Thailand (EARTH), presented a study entitled “Citizen Science Projects in Thailand”, at the 13th BioDetectors Conference 2022, which was held between 13th – 14th September, 2022, in Prague, Czech Republic.

For this presentation, Akarapon discussed the “Increasing Transparency in Industrial Pollution Management through Citizen Science” project (2015-2019), funded by the European Union (EU), which saw collection of samples from pollution hotspots around Thailand to be tested in European laboratories.

“There are many industrial pollution hotspots in Thailand” Akarapon said, “from petrochemical industrial estates in Rayong, mining sites in Loei, pulp and paper factories in Prachinburi and Khon Kaen, to e-waste dumpsites in Samut Sakhon province, where dioxins have been found in eggs.”

EARTH had worked with citizens affected by pollution in these sites, but difficulties in accessing pollution information, lower technical capacities, funding, and technologies to test for pollutants, and a myriad of other factors have made it difficult to publicly prove certain factories are the sources of pollution.

“Between 2015 – 2019, EARTH conducted a project with Arnika Association, where we take biological samples from various industrial hotspots in Thailand.” Akarapon explained. “Bioassay technology was used in testing of those samples for pollutants such as dioxins.”

Among others, the result shows high level of #Dioxins, a type of Persistent Organic Pollutants (#POPs) – a group of chemicals known for being able to contaminate the environment for long periods of time. The high level of dioxins was found near #Ewaste dismantling sites in Samut Sakhon province. The pollutant was also found in many other hotspots at lower levels.

These results become part of an international campaign against POPs. Additionally, the information was made accessible to communities for local advocacy.

“Local people use this information to increase bargaining power.” Akarapon said. “The ultimate aim to increase transparency in industrial policy management, and allowing the public to become increasingly involved in decision-making.”

Through the citizen science project and the information provided, communities living close to toxic hotspots have been able to use that information to conduct their own campaigns, including publicizing their stories in the media, organizing meetings with government agencies, and conducting public demonstrations.

With access to scientific information, they have also been able to join up with civil society networks in fighting for policy level changes. These include citizen networks that campaign on waste management problems, and an ongoing campaign for a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) law, which would guarantee public access to information on pollution.

“In our works, we have seen that citizen science can create empowered community and contribute to a robust system towards environmental justice.” Akarapon concluded. 

The 13th BioDetectors Conference is co-organized by the BioDetection Systems, Arnika Association, Berthold Technologies, LC Tech and bring together scientists involved in the development and applications of in vitro effect-based bioanalysis technologies. Bioassay technologies and analysis helped experts from Arnika Association and EARTH in the process of discovering brominated dioxins in eggs near e-waste sites in Samut Sakhon province.

The conference also saw results of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) contamination in chicken eggs or toys from other regions of the world, including Indonesia, Ghana and other nations in the African region. 

Photo by: Ecological Alert and Recovery – Thailand (EARTH)