Tag Archives: Vietnam

Vietnam: Pesticides from burnt warehouse pose severe threat

A pesticide warehouse that went up in flames three days ago in southern Vietnam is posing a deadly threat to local residents’ health and livelihood.
Many people have fainted while bathing in or consuming water from rivers flowing through several districts of An Giang province in the Mekong delta.
The trouble started when a warehouse situated beside a river in Thanh My Tay commune in Chau Phu district burned down last Saturday, releasing a large quantity of pesticides into the river.
Authorities estimate some 2.5 tons of insecticides seeped into the river whose waters irrigate canals, rice fields, and aquaculture ponds in the district.
A day later, the chemicals flowed downriver to at least four other districts – Chau Thanh, Thoai Son, Tri Ton, and Tinh Bien – leaving dead fish and shrimp floating along canals and fields.
The authorities have issued a ban on using water from rivers and canals but residents said it would mean dying of thirst since they were the only source of water.
A farmer said no fresh water had been provided to residents since the disaster.
The authorities have not estimated the damage caused to farmers.
Dead creatures continue to drift along the surfaces of rivers, canals, and flooded rice fields in the six districts and their surrounding areas.
Reportedly, 33 people have fainted since the time of the blaze.
Ngo Thi Phi, 44 living next to the warehouse, said when she knew about the fire she had rushed into her house to carry her mother out to safety. Immediately after coming out of the house, both had fallen to the ground in a faint. She said still had a headache.
Farmers said the deaths of shrimps, fishes, and other aquatic animals had already cost them hundreds of millions of dong (VND100 million = US$6,250).
Several years ago, a pesticide warehouse located on the Vinh Te canal in An Giang’s Chau Doc city had caught fire and caused severe damage in the area.
Reported by Thanh Tuan – Translated by Minh Phat

Vietnam: Mercury poisoning suspected in mystery deaths

Dr. Nguyen Khac Hai, director of the Health Ministry’s Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health
A mystery illness which killed four people in Vietnam’s northern mountains last month was possibly caused by mercury poisoning, a health expert said.
Nguyen Khac Hai, director of the Health Ministry’s Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health, said in 2002-2004 they had conducted research on the illness in Kim Boi district where many people had symptoms similar to ones seen in patients during in the recent outbreak.
Four out of 54 victims died in Lac Son district last month and all of them had numbness, pain and tingling in their limbs, difficulty in walking and breathing, and heart problems.
Hai said the researches during 2002-2004 had found high mercury content in patients’ hair and blood samples. Water, sediments, and animal samples in the area too had shown high mercury contents.
The research concluded the strange disease, first occurring 30 years ago, had been caused by chronic mercury poisoning.
But no conclusions could be drawn on the recent outbreak in Lac Son until test results were out.
But local health departments should inform people that the disease was not contagious and closely monitor pregnant women, Hai said.
Reported by Lien Chau – Translated by Tuong Nhi

Vietnamese girl, victim of defoliant, in Japan for surgery

US planes spray the defoliant Agent Orange over southern Vietnam
A Vietnamese girl with a tumor on her face, believed to be caused by defoliant Agent Orange used by the US military during the Vietnam War, arrived in Japan Friday to undergo surgery next month to remove the tumor.
“I want to return to a normal condition. I dream of going to school,” Do Thuy Duong, 17, said in a press conference at Kansai airport in Osaka Prefecture. “I’m happy I came to Japan to have surgery.”
The right half of Duong’s face is covered with the tumor, and the Vietnamese government has recognized her as a victim of the agent used by the US forces for about 10 years from 1961.
No hospitals in Vietnam can fix her face, and so she came to Japan, a group supporting her said.
The group said it has collected about 4 million yen (US$34,000) in donations.
The teen is scheduled to undergo the first surgery at the Kyoto University Hospital in early October, and will need to come to Japan for an operation once a year for the next 10 years, it said.

Film shares pain of Agent Orange victims

Bill Megalos, Masako Sakata and Tadashi Namba (from the left).
Bridge – Masako Sakata hopes that her story will support Vietnam Agent Orange victims in their legal action against American chemical companies.
“Three years ago my husband died of cancer. Before that he told me he was in Dong Thap province where the US military sprayed Agent Orange. I could not hold myself with sorrow and loneliness so I started to collect information on Agent Orange. I knew I needed to come to Vietnam,” said Masako, the producer of the film Agent Orange – a personal requiem.
In early 1970s, the Japanese girl Masako Sakata met and fell in love with her American husband, Greg David. At that time Greg had just left the US Army after three years fighting in Vietnam. Afterward Greg and Masako moved between the two Japanese cities of Tokyo and Kyoto. The reason was Greg did not want to go back to America was that he had buried his sad past.
Before their marriage, Greg told Masako that he was not capable of having children as he used to be in the area where the US military sprayed Agent Orange in Vietnam. “That was the only sad thing Greg told me about Vietnam. Other things he told me about Vietnam were often about a country with beautiful nature and friendly people,” Masako recalled.
In Japan Greg was a professional photographer working for a company run by Masako that provided photographs to Japanese media. In 2003, Greg went to see a doctor after feeling unwell. Tests were conducted, determining that Greg had liver cancer. He died aged 54.
After the husband’s death, Masako kept thinking about what her husband told her, about the time he was in Dong Thap. Masako then decided to research Agent Orange, believing the cause of Greg’s cancer was his exposure to Agent Orange. In 2004 Masako came to Vietnam with her friend, American photographer Philip Jones Griffiths, who had taken many photos of Agent Orange victims over the last 30 years.
“In Vietnam I met with about 20 families whose family members are victims and about 100 other children. One question that I often ask is whether people are angry with Americans, and the answer is always no,” Masako said. It seemed to her that all these families preferred not to remember about the past, but would find their own way to live.
Inspired by Masako’s story, and photos taken by Greg, Bill Megalos, a professional film maker decided to make a film on the subject.
Masako returned to Vietnam many times to meet Vietnamese Agent Orange victims. She went to Hanoi, Dong Ha, Ben Tre, HCM City and many other places in Vietnam. She heard many different stories, but the problems they have are blamed on one thing: Agent Orange.
With Bill and Namba’s support, in May 2006, Agent Orange – a personal requiem was released.
“I was appeased by the completion of the film. The victims in the film made me understand that the pain I have is nothing in comparison to what these people suffer from Agent Orange,” Masako said.
She then offered the work back to Vietnam in the hope that it would be shown in the country, so that Vietnamese people could see and share the pain of Agent Orange victims.

Vietnam to clean dioxin in hot spots

Vietnam will carry out detoxification of dioxin in several “hot spots,” especially former US military bases that had stored chemical defoliants used during the Vietnam War, heard a conference last week.
The Vietnamese Defense Ministry would be in charge of the task, which would begin late this year, according to the conference on the consequences of US poisonous chemicals used during the war.
US forces used several toxic defoliants, mostly Agent Orange, in southern Vietnam during the war to deprive the Vietnamese liberation forces of forest cover and destroy food crops.
Those defoliants contained dioxin, an extremely stable carcinogen and toxic environmental pollutant.
Vietnamese scientist especially have pointed out three areas that have “high or very high” concentration of dioxin, all of them former US air bases – the Bien Hoa Airport in southern Vietnam, and the Danang and Phu Cat airports in central Vietnam.
The budget for detoxification of the Bien Hoa and Danang airports, which were contaminated more seriously, could reach some US$10 million each, according to the conference.
The government would pay for the mission in Bien Hoa and call for financial assistance for international organizations and governmental and non-governmental organizations in cleaning the environment of the other two spots.
Vietnam blames the US dioxin-contained defoliants for widespread health problems and birth defects, a claim backed by physicians and military veterans’ groups from several countries including the US.
Vietnam says that between 1961 and 1971 the US military dropped more than 100,000 tons of toxic chemicals on southern Vietnam, exposing between 2.1 million and 4.8 million people many of whom, together with their progeny, suffer from a range of illnesses and birth defects.
According to a study presented at the conference, those exposed to dioxin were 14 times likelier to see birth defects in their children.
The study on 47,893 Vietnamese veterans and their families revealed that 2.95 percent of children and 2.69 percent of grandchildren of the veterans who had been exposed to dioxin suffered from birth defects.
Up to 16.14 percent of these children suffered from multiple disabilities, the study by the Vietnam Army Medical Institution also said.
The government has earmarked some VND23 billion ($1.43 million) on a birth consulting project for victims of Agent Orange/dioxin, according to the conference.
A New York court last year rejected a Vietnamese lawsuit against US chemical companies Monsanto and Dow Chemical who manufactured the herbicide during the war. The Vietnamese side has appealed.
In April visiting US Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Nicholson was pressed by Vietnamese journalists on why the US compensated its own veterans for health defects linked to the chemical, but not Vietnam’s.
US veterans who claim health disorders caused by Agent Orange won a victory in 1984 when chemical companies paid $180 million into a veterans’ fund without admitting any liability.
In January this year, a Republic of Korea court ordered Dow Chemical and Monsanto, US manufacturers which had supplied the herbicide for the US army, to pay 6,800 Vietnam War veterans about $65 million.