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Toxic fumes down Guimaras villagers (updated 2:35 am)

September 19, 2006

Gov’t report bares effects of oil spill on health
By Hazel P. Villa
Inquirer

NUEVA VALENCIA, Guimaras – High levels of hydrogen sulfide, a highly toxic gas, in three villages heavily affected by the MT Solar I oil spill have sickened 29 people, including four children, according to a government report, the details of which had not been made public.

The “MT Solar I Oil Spill Health and Environmental Recommendations,” dated Aug. 28, was made the basis for the Aug. 29 memorandum of the provincial government ordering the evacuation of residents of Barangays Cabalagnan, La Paz and Tando.

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, flammable, highly toxic gas with a characteristic rotten-egg odor that is detectable at concentrations as low as 0.5 parts per billion (ppb), says the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The report was the result of a preliminary health and environmental assessment conducted by the Department of Health (DoH) in collaboration with the University of the Philippines’ National Poison Management and Control Center on Aug. 23, or 12 days after the Solar I sank off Guimaras with a load of 2.19 million liters of bunker fuel.

The oil spill, the worst in the country, has contaminated rich fishing grounds, mangroves, beaches and sea-grass beds, killing wildlife like birds and turtles.

“Aside from 29 sick residents, one death was reported in Sitio Banakan, Barangay Cabalagnan,” said the report.

(For the full story, click Toxic fumes, Sept. 19, 2006.)

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