Topping the list was skin itchiness and rashes (50.1 percent), followed by eyesores/itchiness/dimness (43.9 percent), dizziness/headache (35 percent), fatigue (34.5 percent) and cough (33.4 percent).
The survey was carried out by the Bukit Koman action committee against the use of cyanide in gold mining on May 19 and 20. The group interviewed 383 residents house by house in Bukit Koman and surrounding areas within a 1km radius.
It also revealed that the figures were higher among the residents who stay in Bukit Koman New Village, where 84.8 percent of the villagers said they have suffered at least one health problem, while 57.2 percent said their health conditions worsened after 2009, when the gold mine started operations.
Residents of the Bukit Koman New Village had for a long time alleged that cyanide, which is used in the nearby mine, had led to a range of skin, eye, and respiratory ailments.
This is the first time they have carried out a survey scientifically to substantiate their claim.
Analysing the survey results, environmental and occupational safety consultant Tan Hui Chun said the figure of skin disease and coughing is “alarming” because it is 10 times higher than the normal rate, which is usually 5 percent.
Dermatologist Khim Pa, who has 26 years experience in practice, also added that the results clearly showed that there is “irritating” material on the air which caused the health problems.
“It is quite clear that more than 50 percent of people facing itchiness means that there is something in the air irritating to the eye and the skin... It is worse on the expose parts of the skin.
“If the same particles go into the lungs, they will cause coughing,” said the doctor during a press conference held yesterday at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.
Bukit Koman action committee member Hue Shieh Lee said the committee will submit the survey results to relevant government authorities and hopes that the Minerals and Geoscience Department will revoke the licence of the gold mine to protect the residents’ health.
Panel hopes Yen Yen will contest in Raub
In a related development, Hue also commented on speculation that local parliamentarian Ng Yen Yen may transfer to a “safe seat” in the coming general election in view of the controversial issue.
She said the tourism minister, who was accused of being ignorant about the Bukit Koman issue, should stay in the Raub parliamentary seat and the villagers will give her “a taste of losing”.
“Ng (right) is our representative in parliament, she should have listened to our voice and talked about the Bukit Koman issue. But unfortunately, she has always said this is a political issue, not a health issue.
“We are hoping that she will come back to taste what is a loss. If the election is clean, I believe we can say good bye to her.”
Also present during the press conference were fellow committee member Chong Choy Yen and Bukit Koman villagers Hue Ah New, Woon Soon Fatt and his seven-year-old son Woon Chee Hua.
Ng had previously said that the mine is safe, and the state Local Government, Environment and Health Committee chairperson Hoh Khai Mun had recently told the state assembly that the water was cyanide-free, while the toxic chemical’s presence in the air is within limits. - Malaysiakini, 21/6/2012, 78pct Bukit Koman folk have 'cyanide-related' ailments