Vietnam's Red River Delta badly poisoned by arsenic

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The Red River Delta has critical levels of toxic arsenic experts said at a Wednesday conference in Hanoi.


Research presented at the conference showed arsenic poisoning from naturally occurring arsenic compounds in underground water in many places around the country, especially the Red River Delta provinces of Ha Nam, Hung Yen, Nam Dinh, Ninh Binh, Thai Binh and Hai Duong.


The highest contanimation ratio is in Ha Nam Province, where 62 percent of ground water samples were found to contain more than 0.05 milligram of arsenic per liter.


Vietnam's regulations allow up to 0.01 milligram of arsenic in each liter of drinking water.


Research by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Vietnam reported a high rate of skin cancer at places contaminated with arsenic, concluding that the contamination in groundwater largely affects people's health.


Arsenic-contaminated water poses high threats to public health, and can lead to miscarriages, according to the conference that gathers many experts from the US, Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam.


Doctor Nguyen Duy Bao from the National Insitute of Occupational and Environmental Health cited research showing  1.6 percent of the population in the Red River delta suffer chronic poison of arsenic.


A survey on 3,700 people using contaminated groundwater in the region showed that 64.7 percent of people suffered mental breakdown, 32.8 percent suffered pulse disorder, 32.7 percent had pregnancy diseases, 25.6 percent had hair loss and 19 percent had social disorders, according to the conference.



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The arsenic in the groundwater is of natural origin, and is released from the sediment into the groundwater.


The officials said there's not yet treatment for arsenic-related diseases.


As a result, the conference, co-organized by the Health Ministry and Thailand's research institute Chulabhorn, aims to come up with ideas to reduce the negative impacts of arsenic and raise the living conditions at the contaminated areas, said Princess Chulabhorn, chairwoman of the institute which is named after her.


It is estimated that approximately 57 million people are drinking groundwater with arsenic concentrations elevated above the World Health Organization's standard.


Long-term exposure to arsenic can result in cell death and different kinds of cancers.


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