Causes and Solutions to the Air Pollution Issues in Malaysia

by Darya Ebrahimi

According to a recent research by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) and Greenpeace Malaysia, poor air quality is thought to be the cause of 32,000 preventable fatalities in Malaysia annually. The effects of prolonged exposure to air pollution on public health are more detrimental than initially assumed, according to recent study.


Financial impacts associated with health effects include healthcare and medical expenses as well as lost productivity due to early death. Ambient air pollution is expected to cost Malaysia's economy MYR 303 billion (US$ 73 billion) annually, or 20% of the nation's GDP in 2019.


Malaysia's air pollution sources

Releases from an increasing range of sources, including industrialization, electricity production, transportation, and open burning activities, contribute to the air pollution in Malaysia. Additionally, transboundary haze episodes that frequently result in an increase in air pollution from July to October are exacerbated by forest fires both within the nation and in neighbouring nations. The main source of the issue, Indonesian peatland burning, which Malaysian businesses support and profit from, hasn't been adequately addressed.


Malaysia has taken great strides to improve the quality of its air, but far more specific goals and regulations are required for lower emissions. For the very first time following 2005, the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its suggested environmental air quality criteria in September 2021. It will be crucial for Malaysia to update its regulations to align with those of the WHO because any enhancement in pollution levels might result in significant benefits for the nation's health and economy.


Important suggestions for the government of Malaysia include:


  • The Malaysian Ministry of Environment and Water should make ecological integrity and public health the primary goals of its strategy for controlling pollution levels, in addition to taking into account the financial costs associated with meeting insufficient air quality criteria.

  • With a frequent evaluation process that modifies regulations to comply with international guidelines and new findings, they may render air quality guidelines enforceable, time-bound, and legally valid. This requires that legally required ambient air quality requirements be incorporated into Malaysia's principal air quality law in order to codify these requirements and give them the proper weight while balancing socio-economic concerns.


  • Enhance openness, public engagement, information accessibility and compliance in the governance of air quality standards by requiring integrative review and competent public health input in the creation and revision of standards.