The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has started to provide free medicines to 330 children and 120 adults in a lead recycling village in northern Vietnam to treat lead poisoning.
Doan Ngoc Mai, director of the institute, said at a ceremony to launch the program Sunday that people in Dong Mai village in Hung Yen Province would receive free Pectin Complex made in Ukraine.
The patients will have blood tests after two months to assess the medicine's efficacy.
The drug is made from pectin, a bio-polymer extracted from sugar beet that is widely used to remove heavy metals from biological systems.
The institute has been working on the issue for around 10 years, and late last year pledged to provide free treatment to hundreds of children after they were diagnosed with slight lead poisoning, which means their blood lead is lower than 45 micrograms per deciliter.
People in the village, which is situated about 27 km (17 miles) east of Hanoi, began recycling lead from used batteries in the 1970s.
More than 400 households are involved in the business, and most of them have been relocated to a nearby industrial zone in recent years.
But lead pollution remains at alarming levels. Tests in mid-2015 found severe lead contamination in the air, water, soil, and crops in the village, with the highest levels of more than 1,000 times the level deemed safe being found in surface water.
Lead accumulation in one’s body can cause anemia, nervous system dysfunction, weakness, hypertension, kidney problems and reproduction problems such as decreased fertility, higher risk of miscarriages, premature deliveries, and low birth weight of newborns.
International studies suggest that for children there is no safe blood lead level.