KUALA LUMPUR, August 19 – Microplastic pollution remains under the purview of the Ministry of Environment and Water (KASA), says Khairy Jamaluddin, despite increasing evidence of its toxic effects on human health.
The health minister, in a written parliamentary reply on July 19, was responding to Klang MP Charles Santiago who had asked if the Health Ministry would set up an inter-ministerial task force to create awareness and amend laws to address the plastics problem.
Although the long-term effects of exposure to microplastic pollution have yet to be definitively determined, Khairy said microplastics that are 20 micrometres or less in size can penetrate organs while those that are 10 micrometres or less can penetrate the brain membrane.
“It is believed that microplastics have toxicity to various organs such as the cardiovascular system, nerves, liver, and can also cause cancer and growth in children,” Khairy said.
Khairy said the government, through KASA, is responding to microplastics exposure by developing a 10-year roadmap to guide future use and the sustainability of plastics and ending the use of single-use plastics in government meetings and official events.
Other efforts under KASA include the collection of “pollution charges” that requires retailers to charge a fee for each plastic bag distributed with any purchase. However, this directive is subject to state mandate.
KASA is also proposing a review of SIRIM’s ECO 001:2018 eco labelling criteria for biodegradable and compostable plastic and bioplastic standard to take into account the development of new innovations and technologies as well as recognising international standards on the safe decomposition of plastic products in an open environment without producing microplastics or toxins.