Sg Lembu’s can­cer rate 2,342pc higher than na­tional av­er­age?

New Straits Times - - News / Story Of The Day -

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.

IRSYAD OMAR PIC BY AMIR

The Pe­nang Health Depart­ment says 11 of the 500 vil­lagers in Sun­gai Lembu have can­cer.

Datuk Dr M. Suku­mar

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