Danger Zone at Night Spot

Workers and patrons at food and entertainment outlets,which allowed smoking are more exposed to the harmful effects of tobacco, according to a survey by Universiti Sains Malaysia.

They are exposed to the harmful effects of carcinogen and toxin as the air pollution there is 91% higher than in outlets, which prohibits smoking.

USM National Poison Centre re-searcher Dr Foong Kin said the smoke could cause dizziness, sore throat, watery eyes and coughing.

She said the study was conducted in 50 venues in Penang and 103 in Kuala Lumpur, involving bars, discos, cafes, hotels, fast-food outlets, snooker centres, restaurants, Internet cafes and video arcades between February and November last year.

She said a TSI SidePak AM510 Personal Aerosol Monitor, costing about RM17,000, was used to record the levels of respirable suspended particles (RSP) in the venues involved in the study.

Dr Foong said the study was aimed at showing that workers and patrons in smoking venues were exposed to harmful levels of carcinogen and toxin.

“For a start, we appeal to the Government to implement smoke-free zones for all air-conditioned public areas and workplace.

“Such a move has already been implemented in England, Scotland and Ireland,” she said in an interview.

Currently, the country prohibits smoking in governmental offices, health and education facilities, public transport and shopping malls.

Restaurants are permitted to have a designated smoking area within the premises while there are no smoking restrictions in bars, discos and nightclubs.

Dr Foong said it did not make much difference whether restau-rants had designated smoking areas.

“The partition around that area is so low that the smoke from there travels easily to the non-smoking section,” she said.

Dr Foong said she was currently conducting a study on the im- pact of passive smoking on those working in places, which allowed smoking.

“We are targeting more than 100 workers from 50 places, in-cluding pubs and bars in Penang,” she said.

The study, which started in September, was expected to finish by December, she said.

Air Pollutions- room for improvement

VEHICLES and power plants that generate the electricity that we use, were the main air polluters last year. Power stations emitted half of all the soot that clouded our sky, and also half of the total sulphur dioxide (a pungent gas which irritates the respiratory system and forms acid rain).

Motor vehicles, vans and lorries in particular, spewed the most oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide, gases which lead to respiratory ailments.

Foul air: Nationwide, the annual averages of sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and ozone were below guidelines, but there is concern over the effects of chronic, long-term exposure.

Klang Valley folks breathed in unhealthy air quality 7% of the time last year, and moderate air quality 70% of the time. The air was good only 23% of the time. The valley is prone to air pollution due to its geographical position, industrial and commercial activities, dense population and traffic.

Nationwide, the annual averages of sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and ozone were below guidelines, but there is concern over the effects of chronic, long-term exposure. Ground level ozone is of concern as continuous exposure aggravates respiratory ailments, harms vegetation, and leads to smog. Ozone forms when oxides of nitrogen react with hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds in the presence of heat and sunlight.

Murky flows

The main river pollutants are domestic sewage, waste from livestock farms, runoffs from towns, silt from earthworks, leachate from rubbish dumps, runoffs from farms, litter from riverside squatters and mining waste

Last year, 80 river basins were deemed clean, 59 slightly polluted and seven, polluted. This is a marked improvement from 2005, when 80 river basins were clean, 51 slightly polluted and 15 polluted. The seven polluted rivers were Pinang, Juru, Buloh, Danga, Tebrau, Segget and Pasir Gudang.

Last year, domestic sewage and discharges from latex-based factories, agro-based industries and manufacturing industries, fouled 22 river basins.

Domestic sewage and livestock farming waste soiled 41 river basins while earthworks and land clearing turned 42 river basins murky.

Tainted groundwater

Arsenic levels were high in groundwater near a radioactive waste landfill, solid waste landfills, municipal water supply sources and agricultural areas. Groundwater near waste dumps was also contaminated with iron, lead, manganese, phenol and faecal bacteria.

Contaminated seas

Our marine waters showed a higher of Escherichia coli, mercury and arsenic levels last year than the year before. However, levels of suspended solids, oil and grease, copper, lead, cadmium and chromium dropped.

The faecal bacteria E. coli was the dominant pollutant in waters off 71 islands, which included resort islands, marine parks and protected islands. This is because of the discharge of raw or poorly treated domestic sewage.

Pollution by silt was the worst the coasts of Kedah, Perak and Negri Sembilan. Oil and grease pollution were mostly seen in Terengganu, Pahang and Negri Sembilan. E. coli levels were highest off the coasts of Perlis, Kedah, Negri Sembilan and Penang island.

Lead contamination was evident in Terengganu, Kelantan and Perak waters.

Our seas are polluted by rubbish, silt, heavy metals and sewage.

Toxic discards

Hazardous waste thrown out by industries more than doubled in the past two years, from 548,916 tonnes to 1,103,457 tonnes. The hike was due to the addition of electronic waste and gypsum waste (511,929 tonnes) from two generators which were previously not reported.

Gypsum, oil and hydrocarbon, dross, heavy metal sludge, mineral sludge and e-waste form the bulk of the waste. The waste had mostly come from industries dealing with chemicals, electronics, metals, pharmaceuticals, industrial gas, rubber and plastic, petroleum/oleo chemicals and batteries, as well as from automotive workshops.


Smoke out the polluters

I WOULD like to highlight the problem of dust pollution caused by factories and palm oil mills in this country.

It is a problem faced by tens of thousands of Malaysians every day, and has the potential to cause serious health problems.

A recent article in a local daily reported on dust pollution suffered by the residents of Chaah, Johor, where a palm oil mill has been causing black dust to descend on the town for close to 20 years now.

It is high time the authorities act on such pollution by industries.

Similarly, my hometown of Nibong Tebal, Penang, has been under constant assault for many years from factories and palm oil mills. The boilers in these mills spew out smoke and most crucially black dust into our houses and our lungs.

Just like the residents of Chaah, the people of Nibong Tebal have faced dust and air pollution for many years. Much of this airborne “dust fallout” is being inhaled by us, our children and parents, every day.

“Particulate matter is especially harmful to people with lung diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and emphysema,” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States warns on its website.

“Other people who are sensitive to particulate matter exposure are children, the elderly and people with heart disease.”

I understand there are clear environmental guidelines on the emission of smoke and dust. If so, can the Department of Environment please act for the sake of the countless numbers of Malaysians suffering from the invisible enemy, that is, dust pollution.

We hear of Malaysians complaining about the haze every year. We complain about the lack of urgency shown by Indonesia. What about ourselves then?

We can do our part by cutting down on pollution, through strict enforcement of existing regulations.

Environmental issues are not just about saving the wildlife and the forests. We have to act to save us humans, too.

By MOHSIN ABDULLAH, Subang Jaya, Selangor

Increasing illness

A WARMER world will also mean a sickly one. World Health Organisation (WHO) projects that illnesses and deaths related to temperatures, extreme weather and population displacement, as well as from air pollution, food and water shortages and food-, vector- and rodent-borne diseases will go up.

“Some expected impact will be beneficial, for instance, a drop in cold-related deaths, but most will be adverse. Medical experts do not expect to see new diseases but changes in the frequency and severity of familiar ones,” says Dr H. Ogawa, adviser at WHO Western Pacific office.

He says the health effects of climate change are already seen as in the heat waves in Europe in 2003 and Tokyo in 2004, as well as increasing cases of dengue fever in Singapore.

The shift in weather patterns will introduce vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, to areas where vectors were not previously present. The temperature rise has contributed to rising dengue cases, triggering global concern.

“The distribution of dengue cases has changed to a wider population. It now afflicts 30% of the global population but that figure will reach 50% to 60% by 2085. We need more vigilant surveillance and health control for dengue.”

Ogawa says the higher temperatures will also worsen photochemical smog, triggered by the reaction between car emissions and sunlight.

Under-nutrition is another future concern as food production, which is affected by temperature and rainfall, is expected to decline.

He says developing countries will suffer more from climate-related health risk as they lack supporting facilities. To protect their populations from climate-related health risks, he says nations must strengthen their public health systems.