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Lee Bee Wah asks Parliament if DNA testing can solve high-rise sanitary pad littering issue

Dr Khor replied to Dr Lee's suggestion saying that DNA testing may not be a totally reliable method to catch the perpetrators since such litter is likely to have the DNA of multiple individuals - not just the DNA of the culprit

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Nee Soon GRC parliamentarian Lee Bee Wah, a People’s Action Party (PAP) politician who earns an annual MP allowance of S$192,500, asked Parliament yesterday (3 Sept) whether DNA testing could solve the issue of high-rise sanitary pad littering.

Dr Lee argued that there is a persistent issue of littering in her ward despite the presence of surveillance cameras and highlighted that used sanitary pads thrown from high-rise apartments are among the garbage littering her constituency.

This is not the first time Dr Lee has expressed concern over high-rise sanitary pad littering. In 2015, she told the New Paper: “I have seen soiled sanitary pads on the roof of covered walkways and on the floor. People just throw them from their units. It’s just disgusting.”

In Parliament, Dr Lee said that the culprits would only be caught if the National Environment Agency (NEA) has the “(proper targets) and the ambition to catch the culprit”. She warned that otherwise, “it looks like this problem would only disappear when the litterbug menopause [sic]”

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Responding to Dr Lee’s complaint, Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor noted that surveillance cameras have “limitations” since it is difficult to capture where the litter is thrown from without any information other than the photo of the pads.

Dr Khor suggested that education on littering could be a better way to solve this issue rather than solely relying on technology to catch the culprits.

In response, Dr Lee offered that DNA testing could be used to identify the culprits who toss their used sanitary pads from their high-rise homes.

Dr Khor replied that this may not be a totally reliable means to catch perpetrators since such litter is likely to have the DNA of multiple individuals – not just the DNA of the culprit. This would make it difficult to identify the real offender behind the littering.

In 2013, PAP Minister Vivian Balakrishnan – who was then-Minister for the Environment and Water Resources – said that using DNA to catch litterbugs was “technically possible” but would require “intrusive surveillance” since it would need the Government to maintain a DNA database on all Singapore residents.

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