Article courtesy of nst | August 3, 2015 | nst | Shared as educational material
KUANTAN: Radioactive contamination from the aggressive mining of bauxite in Pahang will put local communities in danger.
Geochemistry and marine radiochemistry expert Professor Dr Che Abd Rahim Mohamed said the early stages of radioactive contamination in Sungai Pengorak and Pantai Pengorak, near Kampung Selamat, were exposing villagers to health risks.
“Prolonged exposure to polluted water and red dust from bauxite mining can increase the risk of developing cancer.
“As we breathe, residues from the bauxite will fill our lungs and create blockage, and can lead to cancer.
“There is a serious risk to marine life, too.
“The red dust will clog the gills of fish, causing them to suffocate and die.” Rahim said the effects of overexposure to the red dust that contained radioactive elements (surface elements) would be known only when it affected the skin, respiratory system and genes.
“The Asian Rare Earth plant in Ipoh, which was closed down when the radioactive waste was proven to be hazardous to the public, is a good example.
“There are cases of people who live near the area who suffered genetic defects that led to stunted growth.”
Rahim said the nutrient-rich run-off from bauxite would enter waterways, triggering a bloom of harmful microalgae in the area.
“A high concentration of iron will encourage microalgae to bloom.
“Fish and other marine life will eat the toxic microalgae, causing them to be contaminated as well.
“Prolonged consumption of contaminated marine life will expedite the effects of radioactive and heavy metal poisoning in humans.
“We have cases in Sabah and Kelantan, where people were poisoned after eating marine life contaminated by microalgae bloom.
“Bathing in waters with a high content of microalgae will also cause itchiness,” he said, adding that the abundance of nutrients would attract jellyfish to the area.
Rahim said iron and manganese sediments from bauxite would settle on top of shellfish, such as cockles, and disrupt their respiratory process.
“Photos (taken by the team) showing hundreds of dead cockles at the seashore prove that the sea was heavily polluted due to mining activities.
“The dark red colour is also one of the signs that the water had been contaminated with iron.”
Tengku Mahkota of Pahang Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah recently raised his concern over illegal bauxite mining in the district and urged the authorities to take action against the culprits.
He said lax enforcement had resulted in illegal miners becoming bold and greedy.