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Tests on Workers at Chiang Rai Banana Planataiton, Show High Level of Chemicals in their Blood



Woman worker spraying paraquat in a banana plantation

Woman worker spraying paraquat in a banana plantation – Picture provided by the Pesticide Eco-Alternative Center


CHIANG RAI – Workers at a Hongta International a Chinese-owned banana plantation in Chiang Rai’s Phraya Meng Rai district have tested have been contaminated with an unusually high level of chemicals.

Hongta International, a Chinese firm, has leased about 2,750 rai (440 hectares) of land in Chiang Rai’s Phraya Meng Rai district to grow Cavendish banana trees. The nine-year lease took effect last November.
Phraya Meng Rai district chief Phubet Julayanont said authorities have assigned the Phaya Meng Rai Hospital to conduct blood tests of 43 of the plantation’s 200 workers.

The action comes after reports of a sizeable number of banana-plantation workers in northern Laos falling sick. It was suspected chemicals used by the Chinese firm were responsible.

Blood-test results by the Phaya Mengrai Hospital showed 10 of the workers were in the risky condition, while 13 had already reached unsafe contamination levels.

The hospital has explained that further blood tests must be conducted and these workers’ behaviour must be evaluated in detail. Saying such levels of contamination might have arisen from eating unwashed vegetables.

“It’s possible that if consumers don’t wash vegetables thoroughly, they might absorb chemicals,” Phaya Meng Rai district chief Phubet Julayanont said yesterday. “We have to investigate further to determine the exact cause of the contamination”.

Tuanchai Walaisuk, the chief of workers at Hongta International, insisted the plantation under his supervision did not use the chemicals the Chinese initially wanted to utilise.

The Mekong-Lanna nature conservation network has accused the Chinese plantation in tambon Phya Meng Rai of heavy use of pesticides and water from Mae Ing creek. However, the accusation needs to be verified and an investigation is warranted in order to nip the problem in the bud.

Tuanchai said banana plantations in Chiang Rai used pesticides that were widely used in Thailand.

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