HÀ NỘI — The level of mercury found in various samples collected in the vicinity of a destroyed light bulb factory in a densely-populated area of Hà Nội has been deemed safe to human health, Việt Nam Environment Administration under the environment ministry said late on Wednesday.
The administration said that only two out of 12 surface water and eight wastewater samples from a number of lakes and rivers that might carry contaminated water from the site, and one out of six outdoor air samples collected within the factory's site, are found to have contained a higher amount of mercury (Hg) than standards, but still lower than health ministry's regulations on labour safety standards.
Twelve sediment samples out of 13 collected contained a higher level of heavy metal than accepted standards, but whether or not this is directly attributed to the fire incident at the factory remains to be seen.
Still, the administration sounded caution over possible adverse effects on the health of people living within a radius of 500m from the fences of the burnt warehouse.
Responding to reporters' questions at the Government meeting on Wednesday, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Võ Tuấn Nhân said that 15.1-27.2kg of mercury has been leaked out to the surrounding areas.
Previously, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has said the danger of contamination and the extent of impacts caused by the Rạng Đông fire was at a medium level and Việt Nam was capable of bringing the situation under control.
Minister Trần Hồng Hà made the statement after hearing opinions from scientists and experts at the inter-disciplinary meeting on the incident at the Rạng Đông light bulb warehouse held on Tuesday.
At the meeting, Hà asked scientists and experts to give accurate and scientific opinions on the fire at Rạng Đông Light Source&Vacuum Flask JSC on August 28, so that the ministry would be able to make an accurate report.
The report would be sent to the Government and Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc.
He has asked the company to take immediate measures to ensure the absolute safety of people living around the warehouse.
Areas at risk of contamination needed to be isolated to avoid spreading chemicals into the surrounding environment. Damaged production materials and remnants needed to be collected, stored in containers and handled by competent agencies.
Hà has requested the company to work with the city’s People’s Committee and the Ministry of National Defence to handle the residual chemicals and heavy metals released from the fire.
The city’s People's Committee must work with the company to provide full and accurate data on raw materials and chemicals used for the production of light bulbs, which have been destroyed in the fire.
Based on that, the committee could provide transparent and scientific information to the public. This would help avoiding misleading or false information, causing panic.
Hà has asked the Ministry of Health to provide scientific information and guidelines on health check-ups for those in need.
He urged the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology to invite Japanese experts to co-operate with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and Vietnamese research agencies to conduct research and evaluation on the environment after the fire.
The Việt Nam Environment Administration has been asked to continue consulting domestic and international experts and scientists to support the city in monitoring and inspecting the air, land, and water quality surrounding the warehouse. Timely recommendations must be sent to the community if needed.
After this incident, Hà said the relevant ministries and agencies must issue regulations on chemical safety for environmental incidents, fires and explosions. Industrial facilities involved in the use of chemicals in urban areas must be strictly managed to avoid the same case in the future.
On August 28, a fire broke out at the light bulb warehouse of the company in Thanh Xuân District’s Hạ Đình Ward. A third of the 6,000sq.m warehouse with more than four million light bulbs was destroyed in the five-hour blaze.
Losses were estimated at VNĐ150 billion (US$6.4 million).
The fire has raised concerns among residents over the risks of contamination caused by the fire. Two days after the incident, the city announced that the indicators of heavy metals such as mercury and lead monitored around the location of the fire were safe.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said the heavy rain on the two days of August 29 and 30 had helped curb air contamination. — VNS