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Rashes affect city residents

Rashes affect city residents

Phoun Sothy, 12, displays a rash on her neck and upper chest yesterday at her home near the Stung Meanchey dump site.

Everyone in the village has this problem – when the wind blows and touches our skin, it causes a skin rash
and itches

A mystrious outbreak of nasty skin rashes among vill-agers living near a dump site in Phnom Penh’s Stung Meanchey district has led to speculation the irritat-ions have been caused by methane gas emanating from garbage or chemicals from a garment factory.

Villagers said yesterday the skin irritations first flared up about four or five days ago when the wind blew towards them from the direction of the dump site and the nearby garment factory.
“When the wind blew, we started to get itchy. We suspected it was from the dump site,” 49-year-old villager Lai La said yesterday.

But he said a Korean firm, Eco Cam, that bought the site in July and intended to harvest the trash to make electricity, had since covered the garbage with plastic, making him suspect the rashes were actually caused by chemicals from the garment factory.

Old people and children in the area had been most severely affected by the rashes witch had predominantly broken out over their arms and legs, he said, adding that he would file a complaint to the commune chief.

“If authorities do not take any measure to protect us, villagers’ health will deteriorate further,” he said.

Choub Son, 31, who lives close to the dump site in Damnak Thom village said yesterday his two daughters had begun crying whenever the wind blew.

“The authority should be take action on this problem to check the dump site and the factory in the village because everyone in the village has this problem – when the wind blows and touches our skin, it causes a skin rash and itches,” he said.   

Seng Sanh, chief of Meanchey commune said yesterday he wasn’t aware of the problem but added that it sounded peculiar.  

“How did they get these itches because they stopped to dropping garbage in that area along time ago?” he said.

Eco Cam plans to generate around 1 megawatt of electricity from the former garbage dump, according to Phnom Penh Municipality’s website.

Contact information for Eco Cam could not be found yesterday.

Sok Sokun, Director of Phnom Penh Municipal Health Department declined to comment yesterday.