Clogged drain at Kg Benggali, Butterwoth.

Consumers Association of Penang urges the City Council of Penang (MBPP) and Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) to increase efforts in cleaning up drains in Penang to prevent  the spread of diseases.

CAP’s recent survey at various areas found many clogged drains. They have not been cleaned and were also covered with grease. Waste thrown in the drains clogged them up and produced a foul smell.

Foul smelling drains give a bad image to the state which is a prominent tourism destination and also pose a health hazard to the residents as dirty drains attract rodents, cockroaches, and other pests.

Among the badly affected areas are Jalan Telekom, Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, Jalan Utama, Jalan Macalister, Jalan Gurdwara, Jalan Jones, and most of the drains at Ayer Itam and Bayan Baru on Penang Island while Jalan Kampung Gajah, Jalan Bagan Luar, and Jalan Kampung Bengali are in Seberang Perai.

The City Council of Penang Island (MBPP) and the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) should act proactively and not wait for complaints to be made.

The drain structures in Penang should also be modified to meet the increased density of population in many areas.

The State government must direct agencies concerned to improve the old drainage system before any new project is carried out. This includes the widening and deepening of the present drains so that the waste water is able to flow unhindered.

Press Statements, 2 March 2018

A Clear Mocker Of The Explosives Act

Consumers’ Association of Penang has been reminding various relevant authorities about the violations of the Explosives Act for more than two decades but these calls have fallen on deaf ears. As over the weekend we were a laughing stock when banned firecrackers and fireworks were let off freely without an ounce of fear of breaking the law.

The relevant authorities are pussy footing around the issue without a political will to enforce the Act but having a knee-jerk reaction when an incident occurs. If the authorities are willing to wield the full weight of the law to hammer out this menace then it would not have sustained the business of selling firecrackers/fireworks.

It would not make business sense if the importer, the warehouse owner, retailer, and the person who are caught in possession of these explosives to receive maximum sentence allowed. In fact, the law should be amended to have the properties of those involved in the trade confiscated as well.

Obviously firecrackers/fireworks are not only sold behind counters or in back lanes when six stalls openly selling them along Jalan Mergastua were engulfed in flames on 17 February 2018. It resulted in the destruction of a Toyota Vios and a motorcycle, and partial damage to a Honda City.

Twenty-six persons were injured when fire crackers were let off during a Thaipusam celebration in Sungai Petani on 2 February 2018. Four persons were charged but the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) is also keen to know where the culprits sourced their fire crackers. Why must the investigation end with these four persons? The supplier is also guilty for importing without a license, storing, and selling these explosive items.

These are for the start of an ‘auspicious’ 2018.

We seriously urge that if the authorities are not keen/capable in enforcing the law, then they might as well lift the ban on firecrackers/fireworks entirely. It may not look as bad as having a plethora of laws and regulations that are left poorly enforced and make a mockery of the laws of the country.

PRESS STATEMENT, 19 February 2018

CAP: Ban air fresheners and fragrances in public places

CAP President at Ban Fragrances Press Conference.

The Consumers Association of Penang calls on the authorities to promulgate laws to ban the use of fragrances in public places as it is hazardous to health. The ban should include the use of air freshener and perfume.

Driven by advertisements that promote scented environments as clean and healthy, it is common to find air fresheners being used in public places such as at airports, restaurants, shopping malls, meeting rooms and banquet halls. Despite their popularity, there are concerns that these products increase indoor air pollution and pose a health risk, especially with long-term exposure.

According to the US Academy of Sciences, 95% of the chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. They include known toxins capable of causing cancer, birth defects central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions.

Air fresheners may use chemicals called phthalates that can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects, and reproductive problems.

Phthalates (a group of toxic plasticers) are used in air fresheners to dissolve and carry the smell of fragrances. The use of air fresheners releases the phthalates into the air. They may then be inhaled, or the aerosol particles may land on the skin and be absorbed.  Once these chemicals enter the bloodstream, they can alter hormone levels and cause health problems.

Numerous animal studies have linked prenatal exposure to certain phthalates with decreases in testosterone, malformations of the genitalia, and reduced sperm production.

In humans, phthalates have been associated with changes in hormone levels, poor semen quality, and changes in genital development. Phthalate exposure in indoor environments has also been associated with allergic symptoms and asthma. As there are no labelling requirements and even “natural” products can contain toxic chemicals, it is virtually impossible for the average consumer to know which products may pose a risk.

Besides phthalates, air fresheners release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. VOC turns into a vapour or gas easily at room temperature and are known to cause health problems. Secondary pollutants are also formed when a product’s chemicals combine with the ozone present in the air.

Studies have shown that, fewer than 10% of all volatile ingredients are typically disclosed on air freshener labels or material safety data sheets. Air fresheners are the primary source of volatile organic compounds causing indoor air pollution.

Air fresheners are air pollutants. They do not ‘purify’ the surrounding air and they also do not add ‘natural’ fragrances.  Some of these air fresheners even coat the nasal passages with an oily film or by releasing nerve-deadening agents to drown out smells.

Even so-called green and organic air fresheners can emit hazardous air pollutants. Air freshener ingredients are largely unknown and undisclosed, owing to intellectual protection which allows companies to hide their formulations.

Unintentional injuries have also been reported with these products, including burns when flammable air fresheners have been ignited by a nearby flame.

Consumers should have the right to clean air; they should not be imposed to breathe in air that is tainted with artificial fragrances and other toxic chemicals. Presently there are laws to ban smoking in public places, similar laws should be applied as artificial fragrance oils contained chemicals that are the same as in cigarette smoke. Consumers should avoid using air fresheners especially in places where there are children or pregnant women.

Besides air fresheners, artificial scent in public places is a nuisance as individuals with allergies and chemical sensitivities are unable to go to places such as movie theatres and shopping malls. Individuals who wear the fragrances want to be noticed and end up giving a headache or migraine to people around them. As in the case of tobacco, breathing someone else’s perfume is not a choice as it is impossible to avoid the toxic fragrance in the air.

Similar hazards hide in a wide range of fragranced consumer products like shampoos soap, baby products, deodorant, aftershave, makeup, laundry products, household cleaners, candles and toys.

Meanwhile consumers are advised to:

  •  avoid the use of air fresheners as they are pollutants which masks poor air quality and worsens it.
  •  choose products with no added fragrance to reduce the exposure to toxic chemicals.
  •  read ingredient labels to check whether they contain fragrances  and  even products advertised as “unscented” or “fragrance free” may contain VOCs.

In view of the hazards associated with fragrances, the Consumers Association of Penang calls on the authorities to promulgate laws to ban the use of air fresheners and fragrances in public places.

As fragrances are known to contain harmful chemicals this will be a way to reduce toxic chemical exposure to consumers.

Press Statement, 17 January 2018

CAP: Immediate ban on the sale of glyphosate-based herbicides

The Consumers Association of Penang reiterate its calls to  the authorities to impose an immediate ban on the sale of glyphosate-based herbicides as it is found to be hazardous to humans, wildlife and the environment.

Recently a man from Brooklyn USA is seeking $5 million claims in a class action law suit against Pepsico the company that produces Quaker Oats. According to the lawsuit the famous breakfast food claims that it is 100% Natural as false, deceptive and misleading  because the company uses glyphosate in processing its oats.

The substance is used both as a weed killer and it is sprayed on the oats as a drying  agent shortly before harvest claim the man from Brooklyn  in his federal court lawsuit.

However our Director General of Health had issued a statement that Quaker Oats in Malaysia does not contain glyphosate. According to our Food Regulation  the presence of glyphosate is allowed up to a level of 30 parts per million.  Glyphosate is being sprayed on oats, wheat, barley and other crops as a dessicant.

Glyphosate is the chief ingredient in Roundup weed killer, from Monsanto. In Malaysia there are about 172 herbicide products which contain glyphosate.

Presently Sri Lanka and El Salvador have banned glyphosate after a recent study linked the herbicide to a Fatal Chronic Kidney Disease (CKDu) . It was reported that CKDu is the second leading cause of death among males in poor regions of Sri Lanka, and El Salvador.

According to a new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, glyphosate becomes highly toxic when mixed with ‘hard’ water or heavy metals like arsenic or cadmium that naturally exists within the soil or added as fertilizer.

In Malaysia some 2.5 million have some form of kidney disease, at present, there are about 30,000 people on dialysis and the number is increasing by about 5,000 to 6,000 each year.

Every year, about 10% of dialysis patients die due to lack of organ donors.

Last year CAP brought up this issue to the Ministry Agriculture, however in spite of the hazards associated with glyphosate they informed us that it will not be banned.

In a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture,(which was forwarded to CAP). The Pesticide Board gave the following reasons for allowing glyphosate to be used:

·         It has been used in Malaysia for more than 40 years.

·          It is widely used by the plantation sector and small scale farmers

·         Low toxicity compared to other herbicides.

·         It is only a probable cancer causing agent

Glyphosate is increasingly associated with health problems such as infertility, birth defects, damage to the nervous system, Parkinson’s disease and several forms of cancer. In addition to health risks for humans, the usage of glyphosate can also lead to loss of biodiversity and difficulties with purifying drinking water.

Glyphosate is a broad spectrum non-selective systemic herbicide. It is used to eliminate essentially all annual and perennial plants including grasses, sedges, broad- leaved weeds and woody plants. It can be used for a variety of crops, and in horticulture and landscaping. It has been   used in our oil palm plantations.

Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicide because it is the weed-killer that genetically modified corn and soybeans are engineered to “tolerate”. Due to this glyphosate is being sprayed over vast tracts of farmland as farmers are confident that their crops will not be harmed by the herbicide.

As of December 2015 glyphosate has been banned or restricted in several countries in Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia.

The majority of the glyphosate-containing herbicides are supplied with various surfactants, to make them water soluble. That allows t he herbicide to spread over the plant leaves.

In some reports, the toxicity arising from glyphosate products is said to be enhanced by the surfactant incorporated into the formulation.

Glyphosate residues are neither removed by washing nor broken down by cooking. The herbicide residue remains on food for more than a year, even if processed, dried, or frozen.

Glyphosate not only causes cancer. It is also associated with increased spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory and neurological disease.

As the serious harm to health, wildlife and the environment caused by the use of glyphosate herbicides is clear, there is a compelling case for banning or phasing out glyphosate-based herbicides worldwide and Malaysia should follow this trend.

In view of its toxicity CAP calls on the Ministry of Agriculture to ban glyphosate-based herbicide. Meanwhile agribusiness to focus on the application should move away from the use of toxic chemicals and to move towards the use of safer organic production method.

Press Statement, 15 June 2016

Energy Commission’s Dereliction of Duty

Five years after CAP reported (on 25.10.2010) the sale of an electrically heated “warmness pillow” to the Electricity Commission (EC), it issued a directive prohibiting the import, manufacture, sale, advertising of the product on 23.10.2015. However, there has been no enforcement of this directive. CAP was able to purchase one of these pillows on 26.4.2016.

The Taiwanese product, promoted as Warmness Health Pillow, is a small pillow that is filled with a liquid and electrically heated via an electrical cord with a 2-pin socket. However, it does not carry an EC/SIRIM sticker neither does it fall under the EC’s “List of Electrical Equipment that Require Certificate of Approval to Manufacture, Import, Display, Sell or Advertise and their Applicable Safety and Performance Standards”.

Such pillows are promoted as a health aid to “warm the hands”, “warm the neck”, “warm cold feet”, “relief belly aches”, “ease joint pains”, “improves blood circulation”, “expel body wind”, “relieve body pain and aches”, “helps alleviate those dreaded menstrual cramps every month”, “as postnatal use to expel body wind and flatten tummy”, and “as alternative treatment for miscarriage”.

In early December 2010, the EC responded, saying that such electrical pillows were not in the list approved by the EC. It also said that the importer needed to apply to the EC (but obviously did not) and because of the outrageous medical claims, it also needed approval from the Malaysia Ministry of Health (MOH).

CAP then wrote to MOH and it gave a non-chalant reply that no evaluation was made on the quality, efficacy because the product is not categorised as a health product.

There was much feet dragging and in February 2013 the EC wrote that since it is an electrical product, it had requested SIRIM to collect samples from the market to test if they meet the safety standards, stating that SIRIM’s test results will become the basis of subsequent action to be taken. Four months later, SIRIM revealed the results that showed that several parameters did not meet the required standards.

Another year passed, in April 2014, the EC announced that it is in the process of working together with related government agencies to implement a restraining order to import and manufacture such pillows.

A full five years after CAP alerted the EC, it issued a directive to all manufacturers and importers of the warmness pillow that there had been cases of “electrical accidents” involving the pillows that exploded while in use. It had been found that the pillow does not meet safety standards. As such, under Sec 101(2) of the Electricity Regulations 1994, the EC has prohibited the importation, manufacture, display, advertising and sale of the warmness pillow unless it meets the standard MS IEC 60335-1-2005.

The EC knew that the product is substandard and yet traders were brazenly able to import it into Malaysia and sell it in the market. Even 6 months after the EC’s directive, these dangerous pillows are still being sold.

The EC has failed to carry out its duty to ensure all electrical appliance/equipment are electrically safe and pose no danger to consumers’ life and limb. This amounts to dereliction of duty and breach of trust placed by public on EC to ensure safety of product.

* CAP is eager to know how many “electrical accidents” were reported, how many casualties, and if there were any deaths.

* The victims and next of kin of these exploding pillows can sue the EC for negligence in performing its duty to ensure that all electrically operated products meet the set safety standards.

* Advertisements of all electrical products should be required to state the EC permit/approval number.

* These warmness pillows are still being openly sold in stores and on-line. The EC should confirm whether it has now given approval for their sale. If so, why don’t they carry the EC/SIRIM approval sticker?

Press Release, 28 April 2016