PORT DICKSON: It has not been determined if an illness suffered by a 12-year-old boy in Johor is linked to the toxic pollution in Pasir Gudang's Sungai Kim Kim earlier this year, said Malaysian Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad on Saturday (Jul 6).
Irfan Wafiy Idham Wazir was among hundreds of students who suffered breathing difficulties in March because of the toxic fumes.
However, unlike his friends, he was in hospital for a longer time and was recently diagnosed with myokymia, a Parkinson's-like movement disorder that causes involuntary trembling or muscle spasms in parts of the body.
"Do not misunderstand, when people hear myokymia they assume it is from chemicals, it is not necessarily so because there are many possible causes of the disease, it would be a problem if the public did not understand it," Dr Dzulkefly told reporters on Saturday.
He also gave the assurance that Irfan Wafiy, the fourth of five siblings, will be treated by a neurologist pediatrician.
"I will visit Irfan Wafiy's family in the near future and take the responsibility to make sure that Irfan Wafiy's parents are given the best explanation," Dr Dzulkefly added.
According to the boy's mother Norlela Abu Hashim, his trembling started after inhaling poisonous gases.
“His leg started to tremble on the second night he was in the hospital. When he was asleep, his heart was beating fast. The doctor slapped his face several times but he did not wake up, as if he was in a very deep sleep. The medical team then decided to call the neurologist," she told Bernama.
"The neurologist told him to walk but he could not do so. I had to hold him."
She added that her husband has had to quit his job to focus on looking after their son.
"I have stored all his toys and sports equipment. At times, Irfan Wafiy will punch his calf hopping that it will no longer tremble. As a mother who had brought him up from birth, I am sad at what had happened."
Since the Sungai Kim Kim illegal waste dumping incident, there's been another wave of pollution cases in Pasir Gudang.
Schoolchildren began experiencing breathing problems on Jun 20. As of Friday, a total of 1,138 people in Pasir Gudang have suffered similar symptoms but no new cases have been reported, said the health ministry in a statement.
Authorities are still trying to determine the source of the pollution.
However as part of efforts to improve air quality in Pasir Gudang, the Malaysian government will ensure that all factories operating illegally in the area will be shut down, Malaysia's Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin previously said.
She added the government will not approve any more applications for the construction of new chemical plants in Pasir Gudang.