Customs pass  poisonous PCBs due  to lack of knowledge

By Ifham Nizam

Goods containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a poisonous man-made chemical, are often passed by the Department of Customs wrongfully classifying them as Printed Circuit Boards, a senior Customs Officer conceded.

Sri Lanka became a signatory to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) on September 5, 2001. It was ratified on December 22, 2005.

PCB is a mixture of chemicals consisting of 209 individual compounds, once released into the environment, may continue to exist for years, says Colombo University, Senior Lecturer in Zoology Deepthi Wickramasinge.

She says PCBs are used in industrial and commercial applications like electrical heat transfer, hydraulic equipment, paints, plastics, rubber products, pigments and dyes etc.

A senior Customs Department official yesterday revealed that they were not aware of the PCB goods coming into Sri Lanka due to lack of awareness.

Responding to queries at the Stakeholder meeting organized by the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) with the collaboration of Sri Lanka Association of Science and Institute Biology held yesterday at the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Centre in Colombo, he said that licencing is the best way to prevent such poisonous chemicals coming into the country through goods which are banned especially in European countries.

University of Colombo, Department of Zoology, Senior Lecturer Dr. Chandima Dangalle says thousands of medical PCB studies have shown that PCBs cause a wide variety of health problems, often even at very low exposure levels.

She says despite small fish, milk and diary products also contain high a quantity of PCB.

She believes that average Sri Lankans already carry enough PCB in their bodies, due to the presence of welding workshops.

However, she said that not all of the 209 kinds of PCBs have the same effect. Some have properties like dioxin - one of the world's most toxic man-made compounds, some PCBs act like hormones, and other PCBs are nerve poisons.

She also said that PCBs alter major systems in the body -immune, hormone, nervous, and enzyme systems. Therefore, PCBs affect a wide variety of body organs and functions.

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...