Health

EPA Expands Dioxin Probe

There were fears that some of the contaminated ducks from the first farm could have been sold to and eaten by consumers. But the farm operator told reporters that he rented the land from a company 10 years ago, but only began raising ducks there after Typhoon Morakot hit Taiwan in early August. He said that none of the ducks raised earlier was sold to the market because they all perished in the typhoon and ensuing flooding three months ago.

According to the regulations in Taiwan, steel furnace slag is permitted to be used for land fill or road paving, but not for farmland fill for fearing of the hazards from residual metals or chemicals like dioxin that could cause cancer. Lawmakers and environmental activists have stepped up pressure on government agencies to carry out a sweeping probe and testing of all areas and landfills dumped with steel mill slag. But Huang Huan-chang, organizer of an environmental protection program at the Tainan Community University, told reporters that the duck farm had been in operation since 2006 and provided photos as evidence. He speculated that dioxin-contaminated ducks had already been sold to consumers. Huang, who tipped off the government about the contaminated duck farm also revealed that there are several other contaminated sites in the county.

A total of seven contaminated zones including Dapinding, Hunghsiashan, and Luotuoshan were filled by dumped steel slag that contain heavy metal compounds two times above safety limits, said Huang. Some of the sites are currently still being used to grow pineapples and other crops, Huang added. At the center of the contaminated areas is Fengshan Reservoir, which holds up to 8.7 million tons of water to meet the needs for industrial and household use in the greater Kaohsiung area. A thorough inspection should be made immediately to determine whether the reservoir is polluted, according to Huang.

The EPA took samples of tilapia raised from the pond at the duck farm in order to determine the source of the dioxin in the area. The results will be available in a week. However, the EPA has already found that the amount of dioxin in the soil under the pond was 23.2 pico grams per gram of fat, which is 11 times in excess of the EPA standard. As the duck farm operator had not registered for a license to run the farm as stipulated in the Animal Industry Act, he could face a fine ranging from NT$30,000 to NT$150,000, according to the Kaohsiung County Government.

Scholars and medical experts said the EPA and other agencies should also launch an investigation into livestock feed and additives to entirely eliminate the threats from chemicals like dioxin.

Roast ducks have long been one of the most popular delicacies for consumers in Taiwan while the supply of “ginger ducks” continues to increase as the temperature continues drifting lower. [The_China_Post]

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