In February 1988, the local press reported a rising number of children with primary tuberculosis in two elementary schools in Toledo City, Cebu, Philippines. The increased rate of primary tuberculosis was suspected to be related to the pungent, burnt-rubber odor of emissions from a coal conversion power plant. Two studies were performed to determine the relationship between pollution and respiratory diseases in the area: first, a prevalence study of respiratory complaints among exposed and non-exposed children; second, a review of the daily recording of emergency room visits of children and adults in association with the numbers of boilers operating from January 1, 1983 to December 31, 1987.
In the prevalence study, 276 children were studied, 156 exposed and 120 not exposed to the pollution. Of the 156 children exposed to the pollution, only 10 (6%) were confirmed cases of primary tuberculosis. The prevalence study suggested that exposed children were more likely to complain in cough, weight loss, red eyes and dizziness than those not exposed (p 0.05 by chi square, Yates corrected). But unexposed children complained of wheezing significantly more often than than the exposed children (p 0.05 by chi square, Yates corrected).
Emergency room visits for respiratory diseases were associated with the number of boilers operating. When more boilers were used, there were more emergency room visits for respiratory diseases (mean ER visits boiler ) = 7.2, boiler 1 = 15.8, boiler 2 = 17.4, p 0.05 Kruskal-Wallis one way analysis of variance). There was a similar association between respiratory diseases and activity of the boilers in barangays regardless of distance from the power plants.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) tested the level of sulfur dioxide in gas samples from the smokestacks. The gas analysis showed it was within permissible limits This study suggested that the activity of the power plant was associated with the incidence of respiratory diseases in Toledo. (Summary)