BUKIT MERTAJAM: Born and raised in Kampung Sungai Lembu, housewife Anna Teoh has been staying in the village for 54 years.
The air there used to be very clean as there was no industrial development nearby, she said.
But sometime in 2011, Teoh claimed that she began to experience breathing difficulty and dizziness.
“My condition turned so bad that I had to be warded at the intensive care unit.
“Every time our village was shrouded in thick smoke, I would blame it on the haze from Indonesia,” she said yesterday.
When she was discharged, Teoh found out about an illegal factory which caused the air pollution.
The carbon filter-processing factory is about 1km away from the village where SJK(C) Kampung Sungai Lembu is situated.
“Now, when it drizzles, all our belongings outdoors would have black stains on them.
“Our clothes will also have to be washed again,” Teoh said.
Two of her cousins died of cancer in 2010. She claimed that the dirty air had something to do with the deaths although she could not be certain.
“It was a shame as they were still quite young then. One was 37 and the other, 43. They died of breast cancer,” Teoh said.
Sungai Lembu Village Development and Security Committee chairman Tan Sing Lee urged the factory owner to act on the pollution problem which the villagers have been complaining about for many years.
He said a villager who was so fed up with the burning smell confronted him (Tan), asking: “What’s wrong with your nose? Don’t you smell it?”
Tan’s secretary Yeo Keng Chuan claimed that there had been multiple deaths in the village caused by cancer.
“In the past two years, there were seven deaths caused by cancer and they involved young people,” he claimed.
A check yesterday showed the factory was still operating although only two workers were seen.
“We constantly replenish the pits with sawdust to burn until it turns into carbon powder. The process is round-the-clock.
“The whole process takes four days. The carbon will then be packed and sent to another factory to be processed and exported,” one worker said.
Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin claimed in a Facebook post that about 2,000 tonnes of sawdust were burnt each month at the factory.
She also said she received an 18-page petition signed by 180 villagers for the removal of the illegal factory but the owner was only fined RM1,000 after the case was brought up in court.