GEORGE TOWN: The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) has received over 3,000 signatures protesting the air quality in Sungai Petani and the larger Kuala Muda district in Kedah which they attribute to the plastic waste recycling factories in the area.
CAP acting president Mohideen Abdul Kader said the group has sent the petition with 3,298 signatures to environment minister Yeo Bee Yin for immediate action.
In a statement, he said the locals had exhausted all other avenues for redress, including through the Sungai Petani Municipal Council and the Department of Environment (DoE).
“The situation is becoming serious as plastic waste factory operators who also process imported waste regularly operate at night, some reportedly burning waste at illegal dumpsites in the area.”
He added that many locals had complained of health problems such as breathing difficulties, itchy skin and other respiratory issues.
“CAP is very disappointed with the situation here because it not only violates the Environmental Quality Act 1974 by causing environmental pollution but is also threatening public health.”
He also urged the government to look into the root of the problem which he said was the import of plastic waste.
He suggested cancelling the approved permits needed to bring such waste into the country.
Last week, FMT reported that the air quality in the Sungai Petani and Kuala Muda district had worsened significantly, with residents blaming 50-odd illegal recycling factories in the area.
Persatuan Tindakan Alam Sekitar SP (PTAS) said a survey done on social media groups had seen many reporting the smell of “burnt PVC, wires and short circuits” since late last year.
PTAS’ air quality monitoring checks showed that the air pollutant index (API) recorded unhealthy numbers at 164 on a PM2.5 scale on June 6.
It also reported that PM10 numbers hit a whopping 232 on the API, which is also considered unhealthy.
The API reading by the DoE on the same day was 53 on a PM2.5 scale. PM10 readings were not available.
An API reading of 101 to 200 is classified as “unhealthy” while numbers of between 201 and 300 are “very unhealthy”. Readings of 51 to 100 are considered “moderate” while 0 to 50 is considered “good”.
PM2.5 are fine particles measuring 3% of a human hair which can enter the circulatory system. They have been closely linked to heart attacks and can trigger asthma and respiratory problems, according to a Journal of the American Medical Association study.
PM10 are slightly larger than PM2.5 particles, but high concentrations can also result in respiratory problems such as bronchitis and high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and premature death.