Twelve days into the chemical dumping disaster in Kim Kim River (or Sungai Kim Kim) in the industrial area of Pasir Gudang, Johor, the total number of people treated for intoxication with fumes containing toxic chemicals has risen to over 4,000.

The population had initially been warned of methane poisoning, but subsequent analyses run by environmental and rescue agencies have found other toxic substances such as acrylonitrile, hydrogen cyanide and limonene. Short-term exposure can cause nausea, breathing difficulties, nose bleeds and irritation of the eyes and skin. Long-term exposure can lead to birth defects and cancer. Reports on the concentration of these substances in Pasir Gudang are unclear and sometimes contradictory; the government might, at one point, claim that there aren’t dangerous quantities present, but later say that more anti-cyanide contamination kits are needed.

Without adequate information, the local population had been buying or receiving masks that failed to offer proper protection, leading to more cases of intoxication arriving at the temporary medical centre established in Pasir Gudang Indoor Stadium.

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Alexandra Radu

Alexandra Radu is a photo and video journalist based in Kuala Lumpur. Her portfolio is available at http://www.alexandra-radu.com/