[Center statement] A statement from RSPRC on school children in Mailiao Yunlin returning to Syucuo Branch of Ciaotou Elementary School for the beginning of term


1.Out of concern for school children’s health safety, the precautionary principle should better underpin the decision of school children returning to school 

  Despite that the health risk assessment studies on the school children of Ciaotou Elementary School has not yet proved the correlation between the cancer risk and the pollution from Petrochemical Complex, in view of the school children’s risk exposure in a polluted environment, the government, the corporation, and the parents should consider the policy action of returning to school on the basis of precautionary principle. “Precautionary principle” refers to the changing mindset from “concrete evidence required to prove harm” to “try every means to avoid any disastrous consequences.”

  Based on this principle, the Centre call for a continuous risk communication by Yunlin County government with the parents, and hope that the local residents and parents put the health of school children as the first priority and postpone returning to school, before such worries over pollution are cleared, so as to reduce as much as possible the exposure of pollution. Many past studies have shown that it is useless to take more remedies when taking actions only after the pollution hazard is confirmed. The health of children should not be guinea pig of the pollution exposure.


2.The government should actively sort out the air pollution of Petrochemical Complex and prevent school children from worries of pollution exposure.

  It has been more than a year since the school children were forced to be relocated, however, the pollution hazard from Petrochemical Complex does not show any big improvement. Both central and local government knew the root of problems but no actions were taken so far. The consequences of administrative sloth force the parents to “make choices out of no choice at all.” At the same time, the corporations did not assume corporate social responsibility. Despite the fact that the pollution investigation had already clearly pointed out the pollution source, unfortunately, no active nor effective improvement measures was seen. The administrative sloth shown in the government and the passiveness by the corporations have not resolved any health hazard problem caused by the conflicts between environment and economy, and further increased the conflict between public and the government.

  The Centre understands the local parents’ anger and frustration, and suggests that the fundamental way to resolve this dispute is for the central and local government to take more active regulation policy and effectively reduce the VCM pollution from the industrial parks. The relocation of school is merely palliative that provides temporary shelter from the exposure of pollution and health risk. The real solution lies in regulation at the source and preventing pollution emission.


3.Central and local authorities should begin to take paradigm shift

  The core issue underlying this event is the inequality of the risk distribution, which also reveals many other aspects. The local residents suffer for a long time the air pollution, and the children need to wear masks to class. This phenomenon clearly shows the inequality of education resources under the conflicts between environment and economic development. The main reason why some parents choose to return their children to Syucuo Branch of Ciaotou Elementary School is due to insufficient education resources such as hardware, classrooms, teachers, resulting in unfair distribution of the children’s rights to education. Such inequality of the risk distribution will only deteriorates and become more difficult to handle in the future in response to the low birth rate.

  Therefore, the Centre once again call for support and immediate action since the children’s health risk affected by industrial pollution is one of the topics of newly emerging risk governance. Traditional administrative area cannot deal with this kind of risk event alone because it has already become a risk of complex form. Every department of our government should take actions and catch up with the international trends, promote cross-area governance. In light of this aspect, the responsibility of taking care of the health safety and right to education does not only lie with Ministry of Health and Welfare, Yunlin County government, but also falls on relevant departments such as Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Education. 


For more information, please interview the following scholars:

Prof. Chang-Chuan Chan, Vice Dean of Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene, National Taiwan Univeristy.

Prof. Kuei-Tien Chou, Chief Director of Risk Society and Policy Research Centre, College of Social Science, National Taiwan University.

Associate Prof. Wen-Ling Tu, Department of Public Administration, National Chengchi University.

Risk Society and Policy Research Centre, College of Social Science, National Taiwan University

Copyright © 2018. 風險社會與政策研究中心.Risk Society and Policy Research Center, National Taiwan University.