Sg Lembu’s cancer rate 2,342pc higher than national average?
Is the cancer rate in Sungai Lembu, Bukit Mertajam, where an illegal carbon filter factory is operating for the past 10 years, 2,342 per cent higher than the national average?
This is the poser raised by Barisan Nasional Strategic Communications deputy director Datuk Eric See-To following news reports on the matter.
He said whether or not activities at the factory were linked to the cancer cases, the Penang government owed villagers in Sungai Lembu and the state an explanation on why the factory was allowed to operate illegally.
“This is especially since many people had complained for years that it was affecting their health. People’s lives are at stake here,” he said yesterday.
See-To said while many were still arguing about whether it was right for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to arrest state executive council member Phee Boon Poh over the letters he wrote, asking to stop action on the illegal factory, or if the five-day remand granted was required, or even Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin’s lament that she was now treated like “a pariah or criminal” for daring to make complaints about the illegal factory, the news on the cancer rate caught his eye.
He said according to Norlela, which was later confirmed by state Health Department director Datuk Dr M. Sukumar, 11 of the 500 villagers in Sungai Lembu had cancer.
“This translates into a cancer incidence rate of 2,200 victims out of 100,000 persons.
“According to the Malaysian National Cancer Registry Report 2007-2011, published by the National Cancer Institute, the national age standardised cancer incidence rates for males and females are 86.9 and 89 per 100,000 population, respectively.
“This means that the cancer rate in Sungai Lembu is 2,342 per cent higher than the national average.”
See-To said while the sample size in Sungai Lembu was small, and that there was no direct medical evidence that pointed to the illegal factory, which was burning 2,000 tonnes of sawdust monthly to make activated carbon, as the cause of the cancer, the anomaly required caution and further investigations.
“The authorities must also investigate similar factories in the country to ensure that they meet the guidelines of the Department of Environment (DoE).
“Although DoE has discovered this illegal factory does not have a proper air pollution control system, the chief minister was reported to have admitted that the state had issued directives to postpone enforcement action on the illegal factory.
“If this is true and a link to cancer can be established, the Penang government may be liable to be sued by the victims in Sungai Lembu, particularly those suffering from cancer.”
See-To said Norlela had said activities at the illegal factory were dangerous, and that her son was taken to hospital for breathing difficulties after she took him along during an inspection.
“More shockingly, Norlela said she had tabled five motions at the state legislative assembly sitting to highlight the illegal factory’s operations, but they were rejected.”
The illegal carbon filter factory in Sungai Lembu was raided on Thursday by MACC and other government agencies after reports lodged with the authorities fell on deaf ears.
Dr Sukumar had told the New Straits
Times that there were 11 cases of cancer of which two cases involved lung cancer.
“The cause of the lung cancer could not be ascertained, but none of the victims works at the illegal carbon filter factory.
“The factory is situated at a remote place and is not in the main route taken by any of the victims on their daily travel.”
On Friday, Phee, who is state Environment Committee chairman, was arrested when he went to the state MACC office here to have his statement taken to facilitate investigations into the illegal factory.
Later, on the same day, the factory’s 70-year-old manager and his 37-year-old son, a director, were also arrested.
On Saturday, the magistrate’s court granted a five-day remand order against the trio which expires on Wednesday.
The Penang Health Department says 11 of the 500 villagers in Sungai Lembu have cancer.
Datuk Dr M. Sukumar