|"Several local water wells possess a strong smell of pesticide. Most local households in my village have had at least one member of their family die of cancer," Thao told Nguoi Lao Dong (The Labourer) newspaper.
HA TINH (VNS) — Residents of Viet Xuyen Commune in central Ha Tinh Province are worried that contaminated well water is exposing them to cancer after a spate of deaths caused by the killer disease recently.
At the commune's Trung Trinh Village, Tran Thi Thao is mourning the death of her husband who died of gastric cancer a few days ago. She says residents believe that many cancer fatalities, including that of her husband, have been caused by contaminated water.
"Several local water wells possess a strong smell of pesticide. Most local households in my village have had at least one member of their family die of cancer," Thao told Nguoi Lao Dong (The Labourer) newspaper.
"Duong Hong Long, my neighbour, is suffering from terminal throat cancer and his parents also died of cancer," Thao said.
Nguyen Thi Ly, another local resident, said her husband also died of cancer, leaving her to raise two children with cerebral palsy. Her parents-in-law have also died from cancer.
"My husband was very healthy. In late 2012, he starting bleeding abnormally from the mouth when he was working. My family took him to the National Cancer Institute (commonly known as the K Hospital) in Ha Noi and doctors told him he had cancer," Ly said.
Duong Hong Canh, another resident, said local residents now dreaded going to medical examinations out of fear of being diagnosed with cancer.
According to the commune's medical station, in the past five years, 20 residents from Trung Trinh Village had died from cancer, with several cases of cancer recorded among residents currently.
"A warehouse full of pesticides and toxic chemicals, such as DDT and 666, was built in the commune in 1965 during the destructive war in the country's north that took place from 1964 to 1972."
"The U.S. dropped a bomb and destroyed the warehouse, which is believed to have caused vast quantities of pesticides to permeate the soil and underground water sources," said the Chairman of the Commune People's Committee, Pham Quang Hoi to Viet Nam News.
Inspectors from the province's Natural Resources and Environment Department have conducted several inspections since 2007, according to the department's Deputy Director Nguyen Manh Hung.
"Soil and water samples taken from the area were found to contain toxic chemicals, particularly DDT, multiple times higher than the legal limit. We have asked local residents not to use underground water or plant vegetables and crops in the area," Hung said.
DDT, a persistent organic pollutant, has been prohibited in Viet Nam since the 1980s due to its catastrophic effect on human health.
"The chemical causes cancer in humans," said the province's Health Department Deputy Director, Tran Xuan Dang.
Meanwhile, in order to prevent local residents from ingesting contaminated water, a project under the National Target Programme for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation which aims to provide local residents with access to clean water and sanitation, has been rolled out after being approved in 2012, says Hung.
Local authorities have also classified the soil as contaminated with toxic chemicals and attempted to treat the polluted soil and water table, he said.
Despite these efforts, the province is still suffering from a lack of capital to completely restore the area, providing an obstacle to scientists and environmental officers in treating the area.
"About US$1,000 is needed to treat one tonne of land contaminated with plant protection substances," Hung said. — VNS