GREEN ergonomics is a new concept developed to explore the connection of humans with nature and how it facilitates well-being, health, productivity and effectiveness.
A team of researchers from the School of Business, conducted one of the first significant studies of Malaysian river pollution. The study examines how humans in the agriculture, industry and household sectors generate pollutants that move beyond the boundaries of their workplaces and degrade river water quality and fish health, causing a deterioration in the overall human well-being in Malaysia.
Arsenic, mercury and selenium were present in the samples taken from the Malaysian Langat River Basin (LRB) and Klang River Basin (KRB), with the content readings exceeding permissible national and international standards. The concentration of lead and arsenic in muscles of fish samples from KRB were above the maximum permitted levels. They concluded that the main cause of this heavy metal pollution is discharge of inadequately treated wastewater from industry into river water.
How does this affect people?
Ingestion of heavy metal over a long period of time can be detrimental towards health. Arsenic causes skin ulcerations, cancer, neurotoxicity and cardiovascular diseases; mercury may cause cardiovascular disease and affect the central nervous system; selenium causes thyroid hormone problems; and lead absorption may lead to lessened cognitive development and brain cancer.
A socio-economic survey conducted on the inhabitants of the LRB and KRB showed that some residents suffered from chronic illnesses such as heart disease, asthma and cancer.
What can be done?
A green ergonomics approach can provide useful insights into sustainable relationships between humans and ecology. The contribution of this study is threefold. It provides insights on the usefulness of the human factors and ergonomics (HFE) framework to understand river pollution and the implications for the future; extends and adds to the repertoire of ergonomic studies in the country and provides a comprehensive understanding of the physical, economic, political, institutional and social dimensions of river pollution.
Policy interventions to change human behaviour and achieve greater collaboration between various levels of government, academia, civil society, and businesses can be looked into to help establish sustainable relationships between humans and ecology in Malaysia.
The research was conducted by Dr Poon Wai Ching of Monash Malaysia; Prof Gamini Herath of Monash Malaysia; Dr Ashutosh Sarker of Bangladesh Agricultural University; and Dr Tadayoshi Masuda of Kindai University, Japan.
For more information on programmes and research within the School of Business, visit www.buseco. monash.edu.my