Red soil dust from Long Thành Airport blankets homes, puts health at risk

April 01, 2023 - 08:50
A pulmonologist said that daily exposure to dust can severely affect people’s health, causing damage to the lining of the respiratory tract or leading to pneumonia, lung infection and pulmonary fibrosis.
The construction site of Long Thành International Airport in southern Đồng Nai Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Công Phong

ĐỒNG NAI — The ongoing construction of Long Thành Airport has led to an infiltration of red basalt soil dust into nearby residential areas, posing potential health risks for locals.

In Bình Sơn Commune, where the international airport is under construction, inhabitants have resorted to using tarpaulins to shield their homes from the dust.

According to Đặng Thị Lan Phương, a local resident who spoke with Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper, schoolchildren return home with red-stained clothing. She also mentioned that many children have developed coughs and breathing difficulties due to the dust, resulting in illness.

Phương, who lives with her husband and elderly mother, spent around VNĐ5 million (US$213) on iron poles and tarpaulins to enclose their home, a task that took a week to complete.

Another local, Nguyễn Hữu Linh, purchased a high-capacity water pump to clean both his home and his family's barn in response to the dust issue.

However, this is only effective to a certain extent without being able to clear all the dust, he said. 

Linh said: “In the morning, I can feel the dust in my nose after waking up.

“When I’m outside, everything I touch is dusty, and clothes are dirty even if I just put them on for a while. It’s like that everywhere around here.”

Đông Phương, a resident in the area said: “While my house is not in the communes affected by the red dust from Long Thành Airport, even at 10km away, I can still see the sky turns red from time to time.

“That is only what is visible to the naked eye. Data on the smaller, fine dust can only be collected with environmental monitoring devices. 

“No matter what they are building, protecting people’s life is a must, especially their health.”

A local leader from Long Thành District People’s Committee said that a report is being compiled, which specifies the number of households affected by the red soil dust.

The document will be submitted to the inspection team from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) before a conclusion is made on whether the Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV) is violating environmental protection law. 

Local authorities have previously recorded red soil dust emitted from construction work at the airport project site and the nearby residential area. 

Võ Tấn Đức, deputy chairman of Đồng Nai Province's People’s Committee, said that the site spans thousands of hectares, and no measure from the construction unit has been put forward to address the issue. 

Red basalt soil dust from the project follows the wind and has now spread to Nhơn Trạch District and Biên Hòa City. 

The province has required a solution from the ACV and the MoNRE to deal with the matter. 

Former deputy head of the forecasting department in the Southern Hydrometeorological Station Lê Thị Xuân Lan said the area is currently experiencing winds from the northeast, which travel from Đồng Nai Province to several parts of HCM City’s Thủ Đức City. 

Therefore, HCM City can also be slightly affected by the red dust from the Long Thành Airport construction. 

“However, the amount of dust is expected to increase in the near future, as the dry season will last until at least the end of April,” Lan added.

Pulmonologist Trần Văn Ngọc, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Lung Association, said that the human pulmonary system can filter the soil dust inhaled. 

However, exposure to dust on a daily basis can severely affect people’s health, causing damage to the lining of the respiratory tract or leading to pneumonia, lung infection and pulmonary fibrosis.

The immediate solution for residents in the affected areas is to wear masks, use covers to block the dust and vacuum cleaners for cleaning, he said. 

“The most important thing for the long term is to eliminate what causes the dust cloud, and the project must put in place measures to prevent dust from being released into the environment,” said Ngọc.

As a temporary measure, the ACV has asked contractors to increase water pumping, temporarily suspend works at night and reduce the frequency of vehicles travelling on the construction site. — VNS