Are those factories safe?

The owners and managers of factories producing pesticides and fertilisers always say that their activities are safe, but not all of these people are as honest as they claim to be. Here are some examples:

Bangkok Post, 20 Sep 1999
At least 28 people were killed and 20 others still unaccounted for after a powerful explosion destroyed a Taiwanese-owned lamyai processing plant in San Patong district. At least three houses were completely demolished by the impact of the explosion. Rescue workers who combed through the ruins of the factory building found 10 charred bodies and several human limbs. The blast dug up a big hole about three metres deep, five metres wide and 20 metres long. Chiang Mai governor Prawit Srisophon said he suspected the explosion was caused by potassium chlorate illegally stored in the factory. The Taiwanese owner, identified as Lee Font-tien, was in police custody for interrogation, he added. The governor also expressed concern that there were several lamyai fruit processing factories in the province which may be storing the chemical, which is used as fertiliser.

Bangkok Post, 01 Feb 2000
Bangkok police yesterday raided an agro-chemical plant in Bang Pu industrial estate accused of making products with banned chemicals. The owners were charged with manufacturing with prohibited hazardous chemicals, producing sub-standard goods, and selling products without permits. Deputy Agriculture Minister Newin Chidchob said the plant used 10 chemicals banned by the Agriculture Department which were considered extremely hazardous to the ecosystem and human health. The firm produced more than 250 brands of agro-chemical products but only had a permit to produce eight kinds, Mr. Newin said. Mr. Newin expressed disbelief that the plant had been able to operate illegally for a long time without the knowledge of authorities. “I couldn’t believe the plant had been there for over 12 years,” he said. “The building was big and right in the middle of the estate.” The firm’s customers include large companies such as Thai Central Chemicals Co, Ciba-Geigy Co or Novartis Co.

Bangkok Post, 07 Nov 2002
About a hundred women, children and elderly people were evacuated from a fire-ravaged community at Klong Toey last night as special teams moved in to remove soil left contaminated by spilt chemicals. The evacuation followed fear of a repeat of the 1991 disaster when a fire at a Klong Toey port warehouse sent chemical smoke spewing over the nearby Koh Lao community. Hundreds of people inhaled the toxic smoke and scores died as a result over the next decade. Some of the houses destroyed on Monday were believed to be part of a bootleg insecticide factory. Six chemicals were identified: abamectin, acetamiprid, cypermethrin, acetochlor, metalaxyl and glyphosate. They are used in insecticides and weed killers. Permission is needed from the Department of Agriculture to import, distribute and store them.

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