Odour Pollution: An Environmental Pollution that Must be Abated — Government Should Serve People not Corporations

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) calls on the authorities to seriously consider odour as an important environmental pollution issue as it affects communities’ quality of life and infringes our right for a clean environment. Efforts to abate odour levels are necessary in order to maintain the quality of the environment and hence life.

CAP is disappointed in the manner the Penang State government, Municipal Council of Seberang Perai (MPSP) and other government agencies has handled the complaint of odour pollution that has had a great impact on the community in Kampung Tok Subuh, Juru near Bukit Mertajam, Seberang Perai Tengah.

Residents and commercial operators here have been suffering from ill health, restricted their outdoor activities and live in an unpleasant environment since a screw coating factory started operation here a couple of years ago. The smell of thinner used in the factory’s operations is unbearable to some.


In general, reactions to odours are very subjective but still offensive, affecting the general life, health and wellbeing of an individual as a result of the intensity, character, frequency and duration of the odour. The family staying adjacent to the factory often fall sick, afflicted with skin irritation and throat infection. They often remain indoors and limit the opening of windows and doors. Their pet birds and trees in the vicinity have also died.

What was the reaction by the authorities? The Department of Environment had instructed the factory to install a device to control the odour of thinner used in the Spinning and Dipping process in the factory. After its installation in March 2016, follow-up monitoring by the authorities and test results conducted by the factory, the authorities were satisfied with the outcome.

Nevertheless the community here complained that occasionally they are still beset by the odour and thus it’s still a nuisance and intolerable. MPSP then wrote to the complainant on 24 March 2016 to appoint a competent person for a second opinion and present their findings within 14 days. Failure to do so will render the case closed by MPSP and no further action will be taken. We didn’t expect this kind of reaction from a “caring”, “accountable” government!

Odour pollution is undoubtedly the most complex of all the air pollution problems. We need specific law to regulate odours and address issues of odour concentration measurement. Local authorities and government agencies must take into consideration environmental impacts including odour impacts to communities when planning and issuing licenses to premises.  Community complaints must be resolved, and not neglected in favour of a corporation.

CAP has repeatedly called for law to abate odour pollution since the 1990s. But to date, the government has not taken this problem seriously.  This is not the first case that we have encountered. In the past, we have had a rubber processing factory relocate because communities were unable to live with the stench. Many communities continue to suffer in silence. This should not be the case since the fundamental right to life in the constitution implies the right to live in a reasonably healthy and pollution free environment.

Press Statement, 19 April 2016