Tamil Nadu industrial zone is a “toxic hot spot”

Sep 22, 2004

Tamilnadu, India, Chennai: Villagers around an industrial estate in Tamil Nadu are inhaling “extremely high” levels of at least 22 toxic chemicals, says a report from a community environment monitoring agency.

The area around the Small Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT) that houses several industries in Cuddalore district, 350 km from here, has been labelled a “global toxic hot spot”.

The report of the SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors (SACEM) released Monday says that 20,000 villagers in 10 surrounding villages have been affected by the 20-year-old industrial estate”s poison — which has spread in the air and seeped underground polluting drinking water and farmland.

“Villagers are inhaling extremely high levels of at least 22 toxic chemicals,” the report states, adding that they harm eyes, skin, the central nervous system and the respiratory system.

The Gas Trouble: Air Quality in SIPCOT, Cuddalore report says its monitors had tested the air for 67 toxic gases, volatile organic compounds and sulphur compounds. The samples were then sent for analysis to a laboratory in the US.

“Results of five samples taken for chemical-related industries confirmed that the frequent odours experienced by villagers indicated chemical pollution from the factories situated in this special industrial zone.”

According to M. Neezamuddin of the Federation of Consumer Organisations of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry (FEDCOT), the air people breathe has been comprehensively tested for the first time in India.

He quoted Denny Larson, director of the US-based environment agency Global
Community Monitor, to say: “Chemicals in SIPCOT”s area are 1,000 times more than found in industrial areas in Thailand, Philippines or South Africa”.

“The report justifies the villagers” demands for continuous air monitoring,
including for toxic gases, an aggressive air pollution elimination programme, long-term health monitoring, specialised health care facilities and a ban on setting up of or expansion of any more polluting industry in SIPCOT,” he said.

In a 1998 report, Justice Nainar Sundaram, then State Human Rights Commission chairman, had cautioned against establishing any more chemical industries in the Cuddalore region. “I am convinced that public health cannot take more burden than that which has ensued by the existing chemical industries,” he had said.

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Tamil Nadu industrial zone is a “toxic hot spot”
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