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Lead recycling in village threatens local environment, health

Update: May, 18/2015 - 13:18
Wasted batteries are destroyed mostly by hands for lead extraction in many craft villages in Viet Nam resulting in serious human lead poison. — Photo

HUNG YEN (VNS) — Lead recycling in the northern Hung Yen Province's Dong Mai craft village is seriously threatening the local environment and health of its residents, officials have warned.

Nguyen Dang Anh, deputy director of the Natural Resources and Environment Department of Van Lam District, where the polluted Dong Mai village is located, said the village has been harmed by the recycling of lead for handicrafts, which has continued for more than 30 years.

Anh said last week that about 200 households in the village are responsible for recycling more than 1,000 tonnes of waste per year.

Most of the solid waste is made up of lead batteries, which were destroyed to extract the lead found inside. The lead would then be melted down before being sold in the market, said Anh.

Most of the recycling, including the melting process, is performed using simple methods at home or in fields, he added.

Blood test results of local residents, particularly children in the village, revealed that percentages of lead were higher in these children than what is allowed.

Even worse, many people were suffering from symptoms of liver and kidney disease, or Alzheimer.

This has raised an alarm among provincial authorities to find immediate solutions to protect the environment in the province, noted local environmentalists.

Meanwhile, results from a recent health check of local primary school children in Dong Mai village by the Ministry of Health's Institute of Health and Environment have shown that some 150 of 266 children who received screening tests have high concentrations of lead in their blood.

Deputy Director of the province's Department of Health Nguyen Thi Anh warned that the situation would remain uncontrolled unless immediate solutions are developed to tackle the pollution.

She said it was extremely dangerous if those children with high lead concentrations in their blood develop chronic lead infection.

"Chronic lead infection would cause a variety of symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, pains in their bones and articulation, particularly mental disorders," said Anh.

To cope with such a situation, the Hung Yen Province's public health sector, in co-operation with MoH's professional representatives, has provided treatment to children infected with lead.

As a result, the lead content in blood of some children has been reduced by 35 per cent, Anh said.

The province health care official said that in the coming days the local department of health would continue its co-operation with the Bach Mai Hospital's Poison Control Centre to treat 33 children who show high levels of lead, as well as 27 children suffering from blood deficiencies.

The province has also pledged to promote local education about the danger of lead poisoning and called for people to participate in preventing lead poisoning.

The official from the province environment authority, Dang Anh, said the province was also planning to build a 21ha industrial complex of handicraft villages in the Chi Dao Commune.

The authority plans to then move all lead recycling activities from Dong Mai village to the complex, Anh said.

"This is part of a plan to boost the implementation of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung's decision 64/2003/QD-TTg on the approval of a project to solve environmental pollution issues in craft villages, and Dong Mai lead recycling village is one of the top priorities to be resolved," said Anh.

Hung Yen Province, at the same time, has co-operated with the Centre for Environment and Community Development to conduct research about the local land, in a bid to evaluate the lead pollution.

As part of their activities, thousands of land samples suspected of being polluted with lead have been collected for examination and treatment.

Further, the Centre of Clean Water and Environmental Hygiene in the province has built a purified water plant to provide clean water for local people.

Meanwhile, the province's environmental and health authorities have also appealed for all lead recycling workers to have their health checked, so they might prevent their being harmed by lead poison.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's latest survey of 52 handicraft villages nationwide has revealed that 46 per cent of them are severely polluting the villages' air, water, and land, as well as causing noise pollution.

The survey also shows that those people who live in or near craft villages that are discarding metal or solid wastes are at higher risks of contracting mental diseases, respiration problems and even cancers.

Further, in paper recycling villages, between 16 and 53 per cent of the residents are infected with lung and mental diseases and 58.8 per cent suffer from intestinal diseases, while 44 per cent of residents living in or near food and food-stuff processing villages are suffering from respiratory infections. — VNS

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