Cambodia: WHO says no mercury threat from hazwaste dump

A World Health Organisation official has declared that there is 'no immediate danger' of mercury poisoning from a dumped consignment of hazardous waste, imported from Taiwan, although the mercury content is 20,000 times higher than safety standards.

Rioting broke out in the town of Sihanoukville last December, after the 3,000 tonnes of waste from the petrochemical company Formosa were found spread out on open ground and preliminary tests by the Japanese environment agency showed a “very high” and potentially dangerous concentration of mercury.

According to the Washington Post, one person was killed as rioters sacked offices of officials considered responsible for importing the waste, four more died as 10,000 people evacuated the area fearing contamination, and the Health Ministry has said that the deaths of at least two residents appear to the linked to unprotected movement of the waste.

Some experts and activists are concerned that the WHO’s all-clear may have come too soon, as the waste, which has now been cleared and sealed into 5,950 barrels and 143 containers, may contain other toxins and has not yet been fully analysed.

– See linked article from the Phnom Penh Post more details

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