return icon

Clean-up success at lead recycling village

After a hard day’s work, labourers in the lead recycling industrial area of Chi Dao Commune in northern Hung Yen Province are required to leave their contaminated clothes at work, bathe and then change into clean clothes

VietNamNet Bridge – After a hard day’s work, labourers in the lead recycling industrial area of Chi Dao Commune in northern Hung Yen Province are required to leave their contaminated clothes at work, bathe and then change into clean clothes in a changing room before going home. The hygiene helps eliminate lead contamination that may affect other people.


Paving stones are doubled up to contain the deadly soil. – Photo courtesy of Centre for Environment and Community Development

The separate industrial zone was created by moving all lead recycling households out of Dong Mai Village by the end of 2015.

Lead was recycled in the residential area of Dong Mai Village for more than 40 years. Residents were surrounded by piles of batteries that were broken up and smelted down for their lead content.

Chemicals were directly discharged into the environment, absorbed into the soil and water sources and diffused into the air.

A series of health check-ups by scientists showed the lead had serious impacts on human health. A comprehensive study of exposures was conducted by the Health Ministry’s National Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health and the University of Washington School of Public Health in 2011.

All of the 109 village children tested had lead levels in the blood exceeding 10 µg/dL, a level of concern recorded by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thirty three out of the children had blood levels exceeding 45 µg/dL, which meant that their poisoning had reached a medium or high level.

The shocking statistics prompted scientists to take action to save human - and environmental - health. And they made changes. The changing room for workers was one of their contributions.

The intervention was jointly implemented by US and Vietnamese researchers from Pure Earth and Vietnam’s Centre for Environment and Community Development between July 2013 and February 2015. Working on a budget of US$118,750, the project outcomes and follow-up results, released recently, show its sustainability.

Under the project, contaminated yards at local homes have been covered with compacted clean soil, alluvial soil, clean sand, paver stones or concrete to isolate the contamination from leaking out and affecting humans and animals.

This type of soil mitigation was applied at 49 households highly contaminated with lead. Capping with a clean layer soil of more than 10cm is an internationally accepted approach to dealing with such contamination and has been used in the United States and Australia, according to the research report.

In addition to the homes made safe by the project, 47 other home-owners spent their own money following the project’s protocol.

Duong Thi To, director of Centre for Environment and Community Development said: “If all contaminated soils were moved to another place, the process would be enormously costly. We use a simple and optimal solution, which is low-cost.”

According to researchers, at the close of the project in 2015, average surface soil-lead concentrations in all 96 targeted yards were confirmed to be below the clean-up threshold value of 100mg/kg.

This compares with average soil concentrations of 3,940 mg/kg before the intervention. In 2016, the research team measured 20 randomly selected points in the village and was unable to identify lead in surface soils above the instrument detection limit of 5mg/kg.

Local authorities paved village roads using local budget and mobilising funds from enterprises.

Trinh Van Hien, a resident of Dong Mai Village told Viet Nam News: “Now I feel the air fresher than it was 10 years ago. Main roads, alleys and every local yard look cleaner.”


Percentage of lead-contaminated children at medium and high level (more than 45 µg/dL) in Dong Mai Village through the years - before and after intervention. – VNS Infographic Khanh Duong

Positive improvement

More importantly, the intervention has resulted in positive reduction in the lead blood levels of local people.

Blood lead levels in 196 children below six years old fell by an average of 67 per cent from a median of 40.35 µg/dL in late 2013 to 13.3 µg/dL in the middle of 2015.

Lo Van Tung, vice head of Department for School Hygiene and Health at the National Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health, one of the researchers, said that the effort to help locals release the lead in their blood did not end there.

The institute, in collaboration with Pectin Technology Company, gave free medicine called Pectin complex to 333 children and 107 labourers in July and August 2016. “Positive results were seen after two months of taking the medicine,” he said.

A total of 118 children taking the medicine had their lead levels fall from 20.9 µg/dL to 16.5 µg/dL. And 44 labourers had their lead levels decrease from 43.17µg/dL to 31.55 µg/dL. Nearly 60 per cent of children and nearly half the labourers who took the medicine said that their health had improved.

Researchers said that the success of the project was also due to people becoming aware, keeping dust out of their homes and keeping their homes clean. 

Bret Ericson, a Pure Earth researcher, said low-cost, rapid and well-coordinated interventions could be readily applied elsewhere to significantly reduce lead poisoning.

“I presented the findings recently to the Department of Environment in Bangladesh. We are working with many countries, such as India, trying to replicate the experience from Vietnam. In Zambia, we applied these lessons recently to protect the health of thousands of people,” Bret said.

More needs to be done

Tung said that although the environment and health of local residents had been improved, there were still potential health risks from the untreated lead slag dump stored in the village. Technical solutions must be studied to remove this waste.


Checking lead level in the soil. — Photo courtesy of Centre for Environment and Community Development

Workers in the industrial area still face the risk of being poisoned with lead and can take lead back home if they do not clean their clothes and shoes carefully.

They must strictly follow hygiene regulations at work, use protective equipment, such as specialised masks, boots, follow personal hygiene and change clothes before leaving work. They are absolutely not allowed to smoke, cook or eat at work because these activities create conditions for lead to be distributed, Tung said.

“We also need to assess the long-term impacts of the intervention by testing blood level of vulnerable groups such as residents, workers and children below six years old.” 

Dr Duong Khanh Van, Tung’s college at the National Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health is pushing for the separate lead recycling area to be strictly controlled so that its emissions are not released into the air and waste from the area does not spread. 

Khanh Duong

Source: VNS

related news


Carbon market to help achieve net zero emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions in Vietnam increased rapidly over the past three decades in direct proportion to the economy’s growth.


Buckwheat Flower Festival returns to Ha Giang in November

Vietnam welcomes 1.87 million foreign visitors in nine months

Vietnam welcomed about 1.87 million international arrivals in the first nine months of this year, 16.4 times higher than the same period last year but much lower than that in the same time in 2019 before COVID-19 broke out.

Close to 123,000 sea turtles released back to sea

The Con Dao National Park in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau released 122,867 baby turtles into the ocean between January and September.

Vietnamese, Danish friendship blossoms over the years

Many foreigners have enjoyed diverse landscapes, authentic local food, endless love, eternal friendship, and a favourable investment environment in Vietnam.

China imports less glutinous rice from Vietnam

The proportion of glutinous rice in total rice exports to China has fallen from 74 percent to 48 percent.

Vietnamese artists to appear in Norwegian play

Several talented local artists from the Vietnam Youth Theater have been invited to perform in 'Hedda Gabler', a classic play which is considered to be one of the outstanding works of Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen.

Minor improvements seen in the transparency of provincial budgets

The average ranking of budget transparency for localities in 2021 was 69.53 points out of 100, a rise of just 0.44 points compared to 2020.

Pianist Nguyen Dang Quang returns home for concert of classical music

Piano player Nguyen Dang Quang, son of composer Quoc Trung and renowned artist Thanh Lam, is a fresh and promising presence at the event.

VN central bank acts to tighten the Vietnamese dong liquidity

A recent money market report of Saigon Securities Incorporation (SSI) showed the SBV last week net withdrew a total of VND34.6 trillion through the OMO channel.

Vietnam needs to improve human resources in digital age: World Bank

To reach the goal of becoming a high-income country by 2045, Vietnam needs to quickly improve the quality and quantity of its human resources.

Vietnam’s GDP rises by 13.67% in third quarter: statistics office

Vietnam’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 13.67% in the third quarter, according to the General Statistics Office (GSO).

Ministry of Culture demands strict supervision of beauty contests

Culture, Sports, and Tourism Minister Nguyen Van Hung has signed a directive strengthening state supervision of a variety of cultural and artistic activities, including beauty pageants and modelling contests.


Vietnam to become “new Asian tiger”: Italian journal

Vietnam to become the worlds chip production center

In the first eight months of this year, phones and electronic components have the most prominent export turnover in our country, reaching nearly 40 billion USD.