New Report: SIPCOT, Cuddalore, A Global Toxic Hotspot for Air Pollution
Toxic Air Monitoring a First for India - Using Community Monitors, Simple Buckets
CUDDALORE, 17 September, 2004 -- Samples of air that
SIPCOT residents breathe were found to contain extremely high levels of
at least 22 toxic chemicals, including 8 cancer-causing chemicals,
according to a first of a kind report released by SIPCOT Area Community
Environmental Monitors. Based on the results, the group has declared
SIPCOT, Cuddalore a "Global Toxic Hotspot." For the first time in
India, the air that people living near industries breathe has been
tested for toxic gases, such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and
sulphur compounds. The results of five samples taken outside Shasun,
Tagros, CUSECS 5 and Asian Paints confirm the worst fears of the
villagers that the frequent odour incidents they experience are
indicators of chemical pollution from the factories. At least 13
chemicals found are used as raw material in SIPCOT industries.
The report justifies
the SIPCOT villagers’ demands for continuous air monitoring, including
for toxic gases, an aggressive air pollution elimination program,
long-term health monitoring, specialised health care facilities for
SIPCOT residents, and a ban on the setting up or expansion of any
polluting facility in SIPCOT.
The report titled
"Gas Trouble: Air Quality in SIPCOT, Cuddalore" was compiled using
samples taken by Community Environmental Monitors from Semmankuppam,
Sangolikuppam and Eachangadu villages. The monitors are specially
trained in the use of the "Bucket" to take air samples, and in
monitoring, reporting and acting on pollution or occupational injury
incidents. The training in "Bucket" technology was conducted in March
2004 by Denny Larson of Global Community Monitor. Larson is one of the
key persons involved in developing and testing the bucket.
"The Bucket results
confirm that SIPCOT is a slow-motion Bhopal. For years, the Pollution
Control Board and the Tamilnadu Government have ignored our complaints
about nasty odours and our health problems," said S. Ramanathan, a
Community Environmental Monitor from Semmankuppam village. "If the
Government fails to do anything even after finding out that the air we
breathe has chemicals like benzene, carbon tetrachloride and
chloroform, they will be telling the world that they don’t care if we
live or die as long as the industries can operate profitably."
At least 14 of the
22 chemicals, including trichloroethene, carbon tetrachloride,
acrolein, methylene chloride and hydrogen sulphide, violate the US
Environmental Protection Agency’s safety levels. 1,2-dichloroethane, a
cancer-causing chemical that was found in an air sample taken downwind
of Tagros Chemicals, exceeded safety levels by a factor of 22,973.
Levels of hydrogen sulphide, a gas that smells of rotten eggs, in the
air sample taken downwind of CUSECS Pump House No. 5 was 874 times the
US EPA safety level.
"I have worked nine
years with the bucket and seen at least 500 results from different
places around the world. SIPCOT, Cuddalore has to be the worst place to
breathe, and certainly the worst that I have seen in terms of the kinds
and levels of toxic gases in the air," said Larson. "The levels of some
of the chemicals are at least 1000 times higher than what we saw in
other developing countries like South Africa, Thailand and the
magnitude of the problem, not a single health study has been conducted
till date in SIPCOT, Cuddalore. The Pollution Control Board does not
monitor for toxic gases in the industrial estate, and what basic data
it has on air pollution has never been released to public.
The findings of the
report have very troubling implications particularly for women,
children and old people who spend all their time within the polluted
confines of SIPCOT.
and pregnant women are most at risk of exposure. These chemicals can
attack children at a very vulnerable stage of development and may, in
cases, permanently damage their ability to fight diseases or their
mental, physical and sexual development," said Shweta Narayan,
coordinator of the Community Environmental Monitoring program.
demonstrated lack of capacity of the Pollution Control Board or the
Health Department to understand the pollution problem and take action
to protect public health, the Government is adding to the pollution
load in SIPCOT by allowing more polluting units to come up.
Semmankuppam and Sangolikuppam are very unhappy about the setting up of
a new company, Pandian Chemicals, in SIPCOT Phase II. The company plans
to manufacture 38 tonnes/month of Ammonium Perchlorate, a highly
explosive chemical used in rocket fuel. The chemical is a problematic
groundwater contaminant that is dangerous even at low levels to
foetuses, young children and pregnant women. It can be passed on from
mother to child through breast milk, and is known to attack the brain
development of the child.
"The people don’t
want Pandian Chemicals; the Panchayat doesn’t want it. The company
manufactures a deadly explosive, and a chemical that is known to affect
children’s health. If the Government cares for people, the project
should be dropped. Only clean industries that can provide safe jobs to
villagers should be allowed in SIPCOT," said M. Nizamudeen of FEDCOT.
Community Environmental Monitoring is a project of FEDCOT, Cuddalore
District Consumer Organisation, Global Community Monitor and The Other