Vietnam: Mercury poisoning suspected in mystery deaths

THANH NIEN NEWS, OCTOBER 17, 2006
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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

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