KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 — The Health Ministry has formed a medical team to examine about 6,000 victims from the Sungai Kim Kim toxic fumes incident in Pasir Gudang, according to a report by news portal The Malaysian Insight.

The report stated that the team, consisting of officers from the Institute for Medical Research and Johor Health Department, will provide early intervention treatments for patients showing signs of sickness.

“Symptomatic patients will be given early intervention during the follow up period. Information and various types of data are currently being collected to ensure that a comprehensive and thorough study is conducted,” the report quoted a source as saying.

The report further quoted, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad as saying that the intent was to focus on the long-term effects of the exposure on the victims.

“When we get an opportunity like this, we must take the chance to follow through and conduct cohort studies.

“What needs to be determined is the long-term impact on the victim, whether the individual is at risk of getting cancer or affects their reproductive system,” he said.

On March 8, the Johor Department of Environment investigators identified the chemicals as marine oil waste, which is usually used to lubricate marine engines. The oil emits flammable methane and benzene fumes.

Exposure to high quantities of methane reduces oxygen levels in the body and can result in organ damage, including to the brain and heart, as noted by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Methane gas can also irritate the eyes.

Benzene, on the other hand, causes cell dysfunction, according to the United States’ Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It can alter blood levels of antibodies; leading to the loss of white blood cells, causing damage to the immune system; and preventing bone marrow from producing enough red blood cells, which can lead to anaemia.