JOHOR BAHRU: Authorities are monitoring the air quality at 85 schools in Pasir Gudang on Monday (Jul 1) to try and find out what caused students to fall ill a day earlier, hours after schools reopened following a three-day closure.
Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the teams would look out for carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide and volatile organic compounds (VOC).
“If they get a high reading of VOC, they will ask for a tool that can detect 50 types of chemical gas. The equipment will be able to determine the reading of the specific contents of the VOC,” she told reporters on Monday.
These schools are located within a radius of 13km, Johor Health, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Mohd Khuzzan Abu Bakar added.
On Sunday, 270 students and three teachers from 27 schools in the industrial town of Pasir Gudang experienced vomiting and breathing difficulties.
Out of the total, 101 were sent to clinics for medical treatment and 10 were subsequently referred to hospital.
This happened just as schools reopened on Sunday after being ordered to close for three days last Tuesday. Johor observes weekend rest days on Friday and Saturday.
Several cases of breathing difficulties and vomiting linked to pollution were reported on Jun 20, but the government is still unable to identify the cause of the pollution.
Ms Yeo said on Monday that the air quality data collection has to take place concurrently as the students affected in the latest round of pollution scare are from schools located far from each other.
“There is no geographical co-relation," she added.
"This is different from the Sungai Kim Kim case, where we can identify a (pollution) source and then stimulate the distribution (of poisonous gas) due to wind direction based on the air dispersion model."
In March, schools were ordered to close and many were hospitalised after waste was illegally dumped into Kim Kim River in Pasir Gudang.
The recurrence of pollution prompted Johor Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar to describe the incident as “despicable and a total disgrace”, adding that he planned to propose to the state government to relocate industries causing negative environmental impact.
Meanwhile, Ms Yeo said there was no need to seek help from other countries to identify the cause of the latest pollution.
She is due to meet owners of chemical factories in Pasir Gudang on Monday to discuss steps to make the environment more liveable, she added.