HA NOI — A vast majority of households located near the former Bien Hoa and Da Nang airbases no longer consume foods that are suspected of being contaminated with dioxin after implementation of two information campaigns.
The airbases in southern Dong Nai Province and central Da Nang City served as bulk storage and supply facilities for Agent Orange and other herbicides during the American War's Operation Ranch Hand from 1961-1971.
Nearly 80 per cent of the local residents had been made aware of the presence of dioxin in the vicinity of their homes thanks to the information campaigns, according to Tran Thi Tuyet Hanh of the Viet Nam Public Health Association.
Only seven of 800 households included in the campaign continue to consume food that is potentially harmful due to dioxin contamination.
In a pre-campaign knowledge-attitude-practice survey administered by the Viet Nam Public Health Association, only one in 400 local residents said they were aware that dioxin could be present in soil, water, air, and foods. Only 1.3 per cent of respondents were aware that dioxin could penetrate skin and the respiratory system as well as contaminate foods.
The association conducted the Bien Hoa Airbase information campaign from 2007-09 and its Da Nang Airbase phase from 2009-11, Hanh said.
After the campaign, residents, especially house-wives, knew what kinds of foods they should eat and how to cook food in order to minimise the affects of dioxin on their health, she said.
High-risk foods in Agent Orange hot spots have been identified as freshwater fish, aquatic products, animal fat, animal viscera, eggs, diary products and pumpkins, Hanh said.
There were now 28 dioxin hot spots in Viet Nam including the former airbases of Bien Hoa, Da Nang, Phu Cat, Nha Trang, Pleiku, Can Tho and Tan Son Nhat, reported the association.
Professor Vo Quy, a member of the US-Viet Nam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin said: "It's completely appropriate to pay more attention to the health of residents in hot spots areas."
Policies to disseminate information to residents, especially ethnic people, needed to be implemented more effectively because they had few opportunities to access knowledge about dioxin, Quy said.
Permanent Vice Chairman of the association Le Vu Anh said: "Local people support the programme because they were the first programmes launched in Viet Nam aimed at helping people in hot spot areas prevent dioxin exposure through foods."
The association would launch the programme in other areas in the coming time, Anh said. — VNS