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Purple onions not to blame for blindness

Update: October, 22/2015 - 10:22
Inhabitants in the southern province of Soc Trang's Vinh Chau town process purple onions, a local specialty. Experts have affirmed that peeling purple onions did not cause cornea inflammation and blindness in residents in the region. — Photo

SOC TRANG (VNS) — Peeling purple onions did not cause cornea inflammation and blindness in residents in the southern province of Soc Trang's Vinh Chau town, said Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long on Tuesday after he and other health experts researched and investigated the problem for more than four months.

Earlier some people spread a rumour that traders had covered the purple onions with pesticide and clay to keep them in good condition and that the substances could cause blindness. They also believed that the onion's attar could cause blindness if it splashed into the eyes.

But research by health experts proved that the rumour was not correct.

Statistics from the HCM City Institute of Hygiene and Public Health showed that 967 people in Vinh Chau town suffered from blindness in one eye and 281 others suffered from blindness in two eyes.

The institute's report said that the rate of cornea inflammation, which was the main reason of blindness, in Vinh Chau town was 12 times higher than other developing countries. And the rate of cornea inflammation in Ward 2 and Vinh Hai Commune, where most of local residents grow purple onions, was three times higher than the common rate of Vinh Chau town.

Experts from the institute said that cornea inflammation could relate to acts involved in growing onions such as cutting the onions and working the soil.

Dust from soil, the onions' skin, having dirty hands and then rubbing the eyes and attar from the onions could cause cornea inflammation. Then late treatment and wrong treatment for cornea inflammation led to blindness, experts from the institute said.

Based on the research's results, Deputy Minister Long said that cornea inflammation prevention was the best measure to reduce the blindness rate in Vinh Chau town.

Residents should follow hygiene regulations, use glasses, comforters and gloves while harvesting and processing onions.

Residents should also wash their eyes daily and wash their hands regularly.

If their eyes have a problem, they should go to medical stations for treatment promptly, not do self-treatment or have treatment based on traditional experiences, Long said.

Vinh Chau town is the largest planting area of purple onions of the country with 5,000-7,000 ha every year. The yearly yield is more than 100,000 tonnes with 4,000 to 5,000 locals involved in planting, harvesting, preserving and processing. — VNS

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