The Ministry of Health has ordered a relocation of recycling businesses at a village in the northern province Hung Yen after 65 percent of local children were diagnosed with lead poisoning.
“Thirteen households in Dong Mai Village that recycle lead from scrap materials like batteries will have to move to a nearby industrial zone,” deputy health minister Nguyen Thanh Long said when leading a team of inspectors on Thursday.
Local residents of the village, about 27 km (17 miles) east of Hanoi, began to recycle lead from used batteries in the 1970s.
More than 400 households have been involved in the business and most of them have been relocated to a nearby industrial zone in recent years.
Prompted by media reports, relevant authorities have launched tests and found serious lead contamination in the area.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health last week conducted a test on 618 local residents.
Of 317 children tested, 207 had lead poisoning. Others were also exposed to lead, but at lower levels.
Another test by the institute last December found the amount of lead in water was 1,000 times higher than the level deemed safe.
Lead contamination has also been found in soil and crops at "dangerous levels," the institute reported.
The Ministry of Health has ordered the institute to facilitate treatment of lead poisoning for the villagers, especially for children and women who plan to have babies.
“Local authorities should take relevant actions to clean houses, supply safe water and food,” he said.
According to the World Health Organization, lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children. Lead in the body is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones and is stored in the teeth and bones, where it accumulates over time.
Globally, lead exposure is estimated to account for 143,000 deaths per year with the highest burden in developing regions.
Childhood lead exposure is estimated to contribute to about 600,000 new cases of children developing intellectual disabilities every year, according to WHO.