Residents here breathe toxic air

Staff Reporter
The Hindi
Saturday, Dec 03, 2005

Sample was collected from a burning garbage heap along the Pallavaram-Perungudi road Traces of toxins, carcinogens found in an analysis of air sample lifted from Perungudi, claims environmental group.

CHENNAI: An air sample of the smoke taken from open burning of garbage in Perungudi in September and tested at a laboratory in California has revealed at least 27 toxic chemicals, a city-based environmental group has said.

Community Environmental Monitoring, a group of environmentalists working in parts of Tamil Nadu, said an air sample was collected from a burning garbage heap along the Pallavaram-Perungudi road on September 28.

The sample was taken in a special Tedlar bag, the internationally accepted standard for air sampling, and couriered to Columbia Analytical Services, a lab in California, where it was tested for 69 volatile organic compounds and 20 sulphur gases as per established procedures of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).

Test results released

In the test results released to the media on Friday, the group said the air sample had carcinogens such as benzene, 1,3-butadiene and chloromethane at levels between 200 and 34,782 times higher than levels considered safe by the US EPA.

Continuous exposure to the chemicals could lead to severe problems related to central nervous system and respiratory system. Benzene, which can cause childhood leukaemia, was more than 2000 times higher than levels deemed safe. The environmentalists pointed out that Benzene was in news recently for polluting Harbin River in China.

Other chemicals identified included Hydrogen Sulphide, Carbonyl Sulphide, Methyl Mercaptan, Carbon Disulphide, Chloromethane, Chloroethane, Ethanol, Acetonitrile, Acrolein, Acetone, Trichlorofluoromethane, Methyl Ethyl Ketone and n-Hexane.

Stop dumping

Nityanand Jayaraman of Community Environmental Monitoring said the situation demanded for an immediate stopage in dumping of garbage in Perungudi. He said it would also help in preserving the ecologically sensitive wetlands.

Environmentalists also pointed out that the recent government decision to restrict the dumping of garbage to 200 acres of the wetlands was not enough. “The Government shies away from imposing any material use restrictions – such as anti-plastics regulations, material bans or even company take-back policies for toxic products such as tubelights, batteries and solvent or pesticide containers.”

They have also urged the Chennai Corporation to implement source segregation of garbage in accordance with the Municipal Solid Waste Act to try and reduce the garbage reaching the dumping grounds.

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Residents here breathe toxic air
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