KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23, 2014:

Regional Environmental Awareness of Cameron Highlands (REACH) says water samples taken from Cameron Highlands were sent to the United States recently to test for contaminants from pesticides.

REACH president Ramakrishnan Ramasamy said the water samples had been collected by teams from Universiti Kebangssan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Malaysia (USM) over a period of three months since August.

The samples, he revealed, were collected during normal and rainy season, as pesticide use or water withdrawal could cause wide variations in the levels of pesticides.

“The universities in the Unites States are capable of detecting these compounds accurately and precisely,” he told The Rakyat Post.

He said the results were expected to be ready by end of the year and the involvement of the universities would lend credibility to it.

Ramasamy said the results were important as the link between cancer and pesticides, which by their very nature were designed to kill living organisms, continued to be contentious.

According to doctors in Ipoh, he said, there had been a rise in cancer cases linked to pesticide use among Cameron Highland residents due to contaminated water and vegetables, but lacked concrete data to support the claim.

“As such, REACH will also be conducting a blood sampling test from 1,000 Cameron Highland residents to detect residues of pesticides in blood due to the environmental pesticide exposures.”

REACH hopes to conduct the sampling by year end, pending approval for funding from the Malaysian Health Promotion Board (MySihat) as it was an expensive exercise.

Ramasamy said after knowing what chemical was in the water and blood samples, and how much was detected, the authorities would be compelled to take action, including issuance of health advisory to the public.

In a The Rakyat Postreport in August, Ramasamy said uncontrolled use of toxic agrochemicals was aggravated by the many farms that had mushroomed upstream of the water catchment area in Sungai Terla, a main source of tap water for Cameron Highlands.

The farms’ over-reliance on insecticide treatment, he claimed back then, meant that chemicals, when washed through the soil by rain, ended up in the river.

With mounting pressure to increase yields while controlling cost due to unstable vegetable prices, famers, he had also claimed, ignored good farming practices and turned to illegal pesticides which were much cheaper, but highly toxic.

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