Malaysia's Defence Ministry rubbishes claims of strong chemicals used in cloud seeding to battle haze

Workers shrouded by haze in Port Klang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Oct 5, 2015.
Workers shrouded by haze in Port Klang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Oct 5, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

PETALING JAYA - Malaysia's Defence Ministry has rubbished claims that the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) is using strong chemicals in its cloud seeding efforts to battle the country's haze.

The claims were made in a viral text message that advised people to stay away from the rain created from the air force's cloud seeding operations as it was apparently harmful to the skin.

The Star newspaper quoted ministry spokesperson Lt Commander Karimah Awi as saying that the rumours were not true.

"It is false and the only one who is responsible to inform about the chemical composition for cloud seeding is the Meteorological Department," she said when contacted on Monday (Oct 5).

The message that was spread over WhatsApp and Facebook in recent days read: "Friends from TUDM (RMAF) just called to alert that they are using strong chemical to make rain. This might affect the skin. So please stay away from the rain these few days and if (one comes) in contact, rinse promptly."

Meanwhile, the Meteorological Department Director-General Che Gayah Ismail urged the public not to believe the false information and spread the message so as not to cause confusion, Bernama reported.

"Acid rain only occurs when pollutants in the haze react chemically with the rain," she was quoted saying.

The Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry has also denied the rumours. Minister Datuk Madius Tangau said the chemical used in the cloud seeding operations is Natrium Chloride, or table salt.

"This salt is safe and has no bad side effects on the environment and health of the public. I would like to clarify that the quantity of the salt used for cloud seeding operations has not changed and no other chemicals have been added," he said in a statement on Monday.

Malaysian authorities have conducted cloud-seeding in recent weeks in a bid to battle the haze blanketing many parts of the country.

This year's haze has led to repeated school shutdowns and affected flights in the country. Malaysian authorities have ordered schools closed across much of the country on Monday and Tuesday following previous school closures last month.