KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 — More than 6,000 people in Kampung Jenjarom in Kuala Langat, Selangor are in danger of lead poisoning due to illegal dumping of the heavy metal in streams and rivers nearby.
Lead poisoning can result in heart, brain and nerve failure.
Malay daily Sinar Harian reported that the problem stemmed from a factory that has been operating there for the past five years.
Even more worrying, lab tests on 12 hair samples of residents and workers there confirmed high levels of contamination.
The highest reading was 3,190 mg/kg from a worker’s hair sample. A resident’s hair sample had a reading of 29.7 mg/kg. The minimum safety level before someone is exposed to lead poisoning is below 5 mg/kg.
A normal reading for lead in the bloodstream is below 10 mg/l. Those who have more than 10 mg/kg of the heavy metal content in their hair are advised to seek medical help immediately to test the level of lead in their bloodstream.
Environmental Action Association representative Pua Lay Peng had reportedly voiced the concern of the residents there since last October when they realised the rivers and streams there had turned black, with a lack of marine life.
Pua said his association had taken the initiative to examine the water quality near the factory and found that the pH level of the water was very low and acidic.
“We reported this incident to the local authorities until the factory was instructed to shut down its operations last month,” he reportedly said.
However, the factory remains operational despite the instruction, with workers seen to be active on the premises.
His association then inspected the water quality in the drains and rivers nearby and was shocked to find high levels of lead contamination.
“We also conducted tests on the land nearby the factory involving four samples and the results were also shocking with readings as high as 18,078.81 mg/kg,” he reportedly said.
At the same time, Environmental and Nature Chemical member Abdul Qaiyum Musa said that the hair samples analysed by an independent laboratory in Shah Alam confirmed the high levels of lead among residents as well as the factory workers there.
“People can be exposed to lead through various ways such as breathing, touch or food. When lead enters the body, this toxic compound can spread through organs such as the brain, kidneys, heart and bone,” he reportedly said.