People’s Daily Says PX No More Harmful Than Coffee

Following a series of anti-paraxylene (PX) demonstrations across China, including recent episodes in Kunming and Chengdu, People’s Daily declared on Monday that the petrochemical is no more carcinogenic than coffee. Li Jing at South China Morning Post reports:

In its full-page coverage, the Communist Party’s official mouthpiece said the public had exaggerated the dangers of PX projects, which are “flourishing globally”, citing sources from the powerful petrochemical sector.

[…] And contrary to the perception that PX is highly toxic, the daily said PX was no more harmful than coffee, in terms of the cancer risk to people, citing the International Agency for Research on Cancer, under the World Health Organisation.

Documents on the agency’s website show there is inadequate evidence to conclude that PX is carcinogenic, while coffee is “possibly carcinogenic to the human urinary bladder”.

[…] Li Bo , a senior adviser to the environmental advocacy group Friends of Nature, said the piece obviously failed to address concerns over PX projects.

“The public is actually against the way decisions are being made on PX projects. They are completely left out in the site-choosing process … empty words about how safe the product is, without giving the public a say, will not help solve the problem,” he said. [Source]

At the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Chemistry World site in 2011, Hepeng Jia urged “more transparency and communication” instead of empty words of assurance to help the chemical industry co-exist with an increasingly environmentally aware Chinese public. Jia also quoted an anonymous Xiamen-based researcher who argued that the toxicity of PX itself is not the whole story, as its production involves the more hazardous chemicals benzene and hydrogen sulphide. While PX projects elsewhere are mitigated by strict safety measures, public trust in such precautions appears relatively low in China after years of industrial accidents and lax environmental enforcement.