Solon urges regulators to check “toxic” taxicabs

A member of Congress has urged trade, transport and energy regulators to ensure the proper conversion of taxicabs to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), so as to prevent defective retrofitting, which has been linked to potential health hazards associated with overexposure to the autogas.

“Regulators should consider requiring every cab switching to auto LPG to obtain a conversion standard compliance certificate,” said Rep. Arnel Ty, a member of the House energy committee.

Ty is representative of independent sales professionals grouped under the LPG Marketers’ Association (LPG-MA).

The lawmaker likened the use of auto LPG to the household consumption of the cooking fuel.

“Just like in the home setting, there is a correct and safe way to use LPG. Otherwise, the gas becomes a likely threat,” he pointed out.

Ty was responding to a Department of Health (DOH) study, which cited the would-be health risks to drivers and passengers posed by cabs with engines crudely adapted to auto LPG.

Improperly modified LPG-fed engines could possibly lead to overexposure to the autogas, which may cause headache, pain in the back, nape and chest, cough, dizziness, dry throat, fatigue, muscle weakness, nausea and breathing difficulty, according to the study.

Conducted jointly with the University of the Philippines’ National Poison Management and Control Center, the study also warned that extreme exposure to auto LPG may lead to “unconsciousness and even death” due to diminished delivery of oxygen to the body’s vital organs.

“The study has clearly specified that the problem is not attributable to the use of LPG as transport fuel per se, but to the apparent substandard and faulty conversion of a number of cabs,” Ty said.

“Cab operators should therefore avoid cutting corners, and see to it that their vehicles are converted to LPG by the book, so as to safeguard the health of drivers and commuters at all times,” he added.

Nonetheless, Ty stressed the need to raise standards and build up enforcement to guarantee the safe consumption of LPG, whether as transport fuel, or as cooking gas at home or in commercial-industrial settings such restaurants and bakeries.

“This is precisely what our measure hopes to achieve,” Ty said, referring to House Bill 5052, the proposed Act Establishing the Regulatory Framework for the Safe Consumption and Operations of the LPG Industry.

The 55-member House committee on trade and industry has already endorsed the bill for plenary debate and approval.

Among other mandates, the bill requires every LPG facility or installation, including auto conversion shops and refilling stations, to secure a standard compliance certificate.

Auto LPG is considered “greener” fuel since it produces up to 35 percent less carbon dioxide exhaust emissions compared to diesel and gasoline.

The significantly lower cost of LPG, a propane-butane blend, has also encouraged cab operators to convert.

Since the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1999, some 20,000 cabs countrywide have shifted to auto LPG. Some 2,000 more are converting every year, Ty said.

“Even at this conversion rate, we are still way behind other countries in moving into cleaner auto LPG,” Ty said.

He said Hong Kong, China, the United States, Japan, Australia, Canada and the European Union have been more aggressive in embracing auto LPG as transport fuel.

“In the case of Hong Kong, they did not just convert all cabs to auto LPG by chance. They painstakingly studied the matter, and after considering all factors, ascertained that LPG was the best option to vastly improve air quality,” Ty said.

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