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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - MSF calls for an independent toxicologist

MSF calls for an independent toxicologist

MSF is concerned by the contents of the article in the Phnom Penh Post of

November 26, 1999, on the toxic waste. The article describes how the health

situation of the population in Betrang village in Sihanoukville/Kompong Som

seriously deteriorated after MSF withdrew its medical team at the end of

February 1999.

According to the alarming news in the article, by now "14

strong healthy people have died, that should not have died."

First, we

must admit that this is not what we had expected to happen, once the waste was

removed. According to information we had received at the time we were treating

the victims, the toxic waste was - mainly - highly contaminated with mercury. At

the end of February 1999, the time of withdrawal of our medical staff, we had

seen quite some improvement in the health of the affected persons and we had

based our general forecast on the known sixty-day half-life of mercury in the

human body. In other words, we thought the health problems would disappear

rather quickly.

However, if - as we read - by now 14 strong and healthy

people have died, it strengthens an earlier suspicion that other toxins are

involved as well. This is also mentioned in the excellent May 1999 Human Rights

Report "Toxic Justice."

As it looks, it is recommended to appoint as soon

as possible a highly qualified independent toxicologist to re-investigate the


Unfortunately, MSF does not have highly qualified

toxicologists nor do we have the sophisticated equipment that might be needed

for such an investigation. This kind of work far exceeds our competence.

We keep the medical records of the 1,300 persons who received medical

treatment from us in early 1999 in our archives, and we will be happy to provide

any independent toxicologist with copies of the many thousands of pages of

health data that were collected by our medical team.

Hopefully, these

medical records can help independent scientists to establish objectively the

deterioration of the health of the victims as a consequence of their contact

with Formosa Plastics' waste. Our sympathy was and still is with the victims of

the toxic waste, who are waiting too long for justice to be


Maurits Van Pelt

Country Representative

MSF Holland,

Belgium, Switzerland in Cambodia



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