Over the past eight years, Dungun-born Dr Salmaan Hussain Inayat Hussain is the only Malaysian toxicology expert ever appointed by the United Nations (UN) to look into the effects of pesticides on food.
As one of the expert panellists of the World Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), this 52-year-old Terengganu man is responsible for outlining the safe level of pesticides in food around the world.
“My job is to study the toxicology data of pesticides produced by the industry.
“For example, a company that produces insecticides needs to send data to the WHO (World Health Organisation) and we will determine what is the safe level of consumption of pesticides on food, ” he told Bernama recently.
The Head of Product Stewardship and Toxicology Department of Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas), had also made the country proud when he was appointed adjunct professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the School of Public Health at Yale University, in the United States from 2019 to 2023.
Recalling his childhood, Dr Salmaan admitted that the success he achieved today was really mind-blowing as his academic performance in school was not so encouraging.
The sudden death of his father when he was seven had left the responsibility of raising him and his four other siblings to his mother, Rais Fatima Abdul Razak, 79, a housewife.
“After my father died, I lost the motivation to go to school. I became lazy and often played truant. The only thing I like doing was riding my bicycle with my friends.
“At one time, I even rode from Dungun to Kuala Terengganu and back. I was quite a naughty boy, ” he said.
However, he said things began to change after his eldest brother, Dr Anis Ahmad, who at the time was pursuing his doctorate degree, gave him a pep talk that lifted his spirit and guided him in his studies especially in Science and Mathematics.
From there, Dr Salmaan excelled in his Sijil Rendah Pelajaran (SRP) examination, and eventually emerged top student in both the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) examinations that he sat for in Dungun.
Upon graduating from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in Pharmaceutical Sciences, he did not look back until he obtained a PhD in toxicology.
“I hold on to the principle that in order to be successful, one has to have a high level of commitment and positive thinking.
“If we think we are failing, remember that it is not permanent but a challenge to be overcome in order to succeed, ” he said.
Asked about the scope of toxicology in Malaysia, Dr Salmaan said it had yet to be widely expanded as most companies in Malaysia did not have full-time toxicologists.
“At Petronas, I have 12 staff in my team, including four toxicologists. Some companies such as food or cosmetics companies probably have one or two toxicologists. Most chemicals-related companies overseas have quite a large number of toxicologists, ” he said. – Bernama