PASIR GUDANG, Johor: The Malaysian Cabinet has decided to set up automated pollutant monitoring stations in Pasir Gudang in light of the recurring cases of children experiencing breathing difficulties and vomiting, while the authorities are still trying to ascertain the cause of the latest cases.
Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said in a press conference on Wednesday (Jun 26) that proactive monitoring of air quality is needed in the town.
“These stations monitor the pollutants continuously. In cases such as (illegal) dumping, they can detect immediately and we can take action faster,” she said.
Ms Yeo said a committee would be established on setting up these stations, adding that she hopes the stations would be ready before end of the year.
Pasir Gudang is an industrial town with 2,005 factories, 250 of which are chemical factories, she noted.
In March, thousands fell ill after an illegal dumping of chemical waste into the Kim Kim River in Pasir Gudang, Johor. Many were hospitalised, including students at nearby schools.
More than 100 schools were ordered shut as a result. Nine people were later arrested.
The latest pollution incident surfaced last Thursday after 15 students from a school in Pasir Gudang suffered breathing difficulties and vomiting.
On Tuesday, the authorities said all schools in Pasir Gudang will be closed for three days, as measures were taken to identify and fix the source of the contamination.
Police have set up roadblocks in the town to prevent toxic waste from being smuggled out.
NO CHEMICALS FOUND IN URINE, BLOOD SAMPLES
Ms Yeo said on Wednesday that tests on urine and blood samples from eight patients came back negative, with no traces of chemicals found.
As such, the authorities could not pinpoint the cause of their sickness.
“This is very different from the Sungai Kim Kim case, where chemicals were found in the urine and blood tests.
“For this case, we have the symptoms, but we can’t prove the cause and effect,” she said.
The minister added that the government would also look into creating a buffer to separate the industrial area from the schools and the residential areas.
“If we look at Pasir Gudang, the factories and the schools are very near each other. The schools house high-risk groups (of children), so this is very dangerous,” she said.
Details of the buffer zone would be announced later, she added.