PUTRAJAYA: The Department of Environment (DoE) will hold a townhall meeting with operators of 250 chemical factories in Pasir Gudang on safety measures following the spate of pollution incidents recently. Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the factories had to be more responsible.
“The chemical industry in Pasir Gudang needs to ensure better care of the people’s health. As of now, the development in the area is unsustainable and has a long-term negative impact on the environment.
“We want to determine how we can work with the industry to make it more sustainable in Pasir Gudang,” she told reporters at a joint press conference with Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad here yesterday.
The townhall on Monday follows recent cases of students in Pasir Gudang reportedly suffering from vomiting and breathing difficulties.
Yeo said there were 2,005 registered factories in the area, of which 250 were chemical factories.
Asked if the government was looking to relocate the chemical factories, some of which were just several hundred metres away from schools, she said this was being considered.
“I believe the Johor government has a plan, but let the Mentri Besar announce this,” she said.
Yeo said the gases methyl mercaptan, acrylonitrile and acrolein were detected in Pasir Gudang, adding that the presence of methyl mercaptan was an anomaly that could affect those with existing health conditions such as asthma patients and children.
Methyl mercaptan is a colourless, flammable gas with the smell of rotten egg or cabbage that occurs naturally in some foods while acrylonitrile is used to produce rubber, resins and plastics.
Acrolein is released from fires, automobile exhaust and smoking tobacco products, and is found in small amounts in almost all environments.
But Yeo said the three gases were not detected in the victims’ blood samples.
“The ministry has initiated immediate measures to remove the factors that contribute to the presence of the gases. The authorities are also continuing enforcement efforts and monitoring chemical factories in the area,” she said.
Pasir Gudang, she added, would be the first town in the country to have an automated chemical pollution detection system to be installed before the end of the year.
This would be among the immediate measures to tackle unsustainable development in the area, Yeo said.
The authorities would also create a system to determine how much gas the air in the surrounding area can carry via the air dispersion modelling method used in developing countries.