SIPCOT residents continue to breathe toxic cocktail; TNPCB action to curb air pollution ineffective

From: SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitoring, Cuddalore
March 28, 2007
SIPCOT air remains heavily polluted endangering the health and lives of thousands of residents in the area, according to results of the latest air samples taken by SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitoring (SACEM). The two samples taken in February 2007 near the dispensary inside SIPCOT and at the entrance to Eachangadu village contained 15 chemicals totally, including four cancer-causing chemicals. Trichloroethene and Chloroform, both chemicals that have been banned even for industrial use in the West, were 1800 and 345 times above the US Environment Protection Agency (US EPA) Region 6 Screening levels respectively. Both chemicals cause liver and kidney cancers in animals and humans. Overall 11 chemicals out of 15 exceed the safe levels prescribed by US EPA.
“The latest results highlight the negligence of the SIPCOT units in preventing toxic chemicals from escaping from their factories and also highlights the inaction and lack of political will of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control in curbing air pollution in the region despite the matter being brought to their knowledge since 2004,” said SACEM.
The chemicals in SIPCOT air were first brought to public notice by SACEM in 2004 when the collective of trained village environmental monitors from SIPCOT Cuddalore released the results of 5 air samples. The sample results revealed the presence of at least 22 dangerous chemicals including 8 carcinogens in extremely high levels. Though the report had met with a predictable denial from TNPCB and the SIPCOT industries, the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes (SCMC) took it seriously and recommended the TNPCB and SIPCOT units to bring down the levels of chemicals by December 2004 (later extended to June 2005). The current results clearly highlight that the recommendations of the SCMC have not been adhered to; even the SCMC has not cared to follow up upon its own recommendations. In November 2004, the Cuddalore SIPCOT Industries Association conducted a secret study on air quality and VOCs in ambient air in SIPCOT. A leaked copy of the report indicates that the study found 13 out of 20 chemicals it looked for in SIPCOT’s air. Eight chemicals exceeded safe levels prescribed by the US Environmental Protection Agency. At least six of the chemicals found are known to cause cancer in animals and are potential human carcinogens. In August 2005, the TNPCB had commissioned National Environmental Engineering Research Institute to monitor for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) at SIPCOT at a cost of Rs. 20.15 lakhs. The study was to be completed in 15 months by July 2006. But due to the lack of willingness to control pollution no results or interim reports have been released of this report so far.
“The Government and the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board, through their inaction, are willfully exposing Cuddalore residents to high levels of poisons. Children, women and sick people will be particularly affected as a result. The situation is probably already leading to numerous avoidable and premature deaths, and high levels of morbidity,” SACEM said. “If the Government was as enthusiastic about curbing pollution, as it is to promoting more polluting industries in Cuddalore, the air would be cleaner.”
For more details contact:
M. Nizamudeen – 9443231978
Shweta Narayan — 9444024315

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