The South Korean government has concluded that the unusual massive contraction of cancer by people in a rural village in North Jeolla Province was caused by carcinogens from a nearby fertilizer plant.  

The Ministry of Environment on Thursday confirmed an “epidemiological relationship” between the harmful emissions from the plant and the cancers reported from Jangjeom Village in Iksan City. 

The ministry inspectors presumed that the operator of the fertilizer plant took the dregs of tobacco leaves that were supposed to be used only as compost and illegally turned them into fertilizer by heating it, and that the carcinogens produced in the process caused harm to the health of the nearby residents. 

It is the first time that the South Korean government has acknowledged an epidemiological connection between environmental pollution and non-specific diseases. 

Since the fertilizer plant was established in 2001, 22 out of 99 residents in the village were diagnosed with cancer in the following 17 years, with 14 of them passing away. 

In April of 2017, the villagers filed a petition urging the government to carry out a health impact survey on the plant. A state commission accepted the petition three months later.

[Photo : YONHAP News]