Published Date: 2008-09-20 14:02:59
Subject: PRO/MBDS> Arsenic poisoning, well water - Viet Nam
Archive Number: 20080920.2962
ARSENIC POISONING, WELL WATER - VIET NAM
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Sat 20 Sep 2008
Source: Nhan Dan [edited]
Arsenic levels in water wells a cause for concern
A Central Hygiene and Epidemiology Institute professor has warned
that the widespread use of drilled well water in Viet Nam threatens
to expose an increasing number of people to arsenic, a carcinogenic chemical.
Professor Dang Duc Phu raised the warning at a workshop on special
treatment of arsenic in water, held in Hanoi on [17 Sep 2008]. He
said the number of drilled water wells every year in Viet Nam is
equivalent to Thailand's 20-year-long figure and the amount is likely
to double by 2010. He added that even though drilled well water does
not contain bacteria it is not hygienic chemically.
Le Van Cat, Head of the Chemical and Environment Service under the
Vietnam Chemistry Institute, reported that the country is home to a
large number of arsenic-affected localities and ranks 2nd in the
world behind Bangladesh in the number of people living in areas of
high arsenic density.
Samples of water taken from a vast area of the Ma river in the
central region and underground water resources in the northern
mountainous province of Son La, the midland province of Phu Tho,
Hanoi, and several provinces on the Red River have all contained a
high density of arsenic. The density rates there surpass both
international and national limits set for standard water for daily use.
Ha Nam is home to the most water resources highly affected by
arsenic, exposing some 300 000 out of the provincial population of
almost 1 million to the chemical.
According to scientific studies, long-time use of
arsenic-contaminated water may result in cases of skin, lung or liver
cancers or congenital deformities. Initial symptoms of arsenic
exposure include tiredness and an alteration in skin colour or
pigmentation. However, in Viet Nam, instances of arsenic-related
diseases remain low, said Mr. Cat.
Since the 1990s, the government has conducted a number of scientific
projects and surveys on arsenic levels in underground water resources
and formulated an arsenic map of the nation. Along with the
government efforts, residents have taken extra precautions by using
methods to remove arsenic from water in their daily use, such as
purifying water with sand or sunlight. Such methods may eliminate
between 70 - 80 percent of arsenic from the water.
[The water sample taken from Ma river in the central region, Son La
province, Phu Tho province, Hanoi and several provinces on the Red
River have showed high density of arsenic. Thus, use of the drilled
well water will carry with it a high risk of arsenic poisoning.
Recently, a very high level of arsenic was detected in a lake from
Yunnan province of China (see prior PRO/MBDS posting Arsenic
poisoning, lake - China: Yunnan, RFI 20080920.2955 for a discussion
on the impact of chronic arsenic exposure).
Background information on the effects of arsenic in drinking water is
available in a fact sheet of the World Health Organization (WHO)
which can be accessed at:
For maps of Viet Nam with provinces, see
The HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map of Viet Nam can be accessed
at <http://healthmap.org/promed?v=14.9,108.5,5>. This map shows other
outbreaks in Viet Nam and surrounding countries that have been
reported on ProMED-mail. The postings can be directly accessed
through this map. - Mod.YMA]