[enviro-vlc] Pollution blamed for spate of cancer deaths in northern city
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Mon Oct 6 02:58:46 EST 2008
Last Updated: Saturday, October 4, 2008 09:58:08 Vietnam (GMT+07)
Pollution blamed for spate of cancer deaths in northern city
image: Cancer patient Bui Ngoc Vo is being cared for by his wife at their home
in Thuy Nguyen District in Hai Phong City’s Minh Duc Town.
Bui Ngoc Vo left hospital recently to spend his last days battling throat cancer
in his home in the northern city of Hai Phong.
Vo looks set to be another cancer statistic from Thuy Nguyen District’s Minh Duc
Town, where 70 percent of deaths are caused by cancer.
The town’s residents are terrified by the increasing number of cancer-related
deaths, believed to be caused by pollution from local industry.
In 2006, the city’s Health Department conducted a mortality survey in Minh Duc
Town and found 40 out of 142 deaths between 2004 and 2006 were caused by cancer,
accounting for a rate of 28 percent.
The department also said in the first six months of 2006, the rate had risen to
more than 55 percent.
Over the past two years, between 20 and 30 people have died from cancer each
year, pushing the rate up to 70 percent of the town’s death toll, Minh Duc Town
People’s Committee Chairman Le Van Hien said.
Hien said most of the cancer victims were young locals, who were diagnosed with
serious cancer in their soft palates, stomachs, livers and lungs.
Some people, who had been young and healthy, died within a few months of being
diagnosed, he said.
Vo could not walk or speak when Thanh Nien visited his home recently. His throat
had swelled and he was looking skeletal.
The smoke stack at Hai Phong Cement Company pumping waste into the air.
“He can’t even swallow a spoonful of soup,” said his wife Cao Thi Pham. “I don’t
know how many more days he can live.”
Pham said she and her husband used to work at a nearby stone quarry to support
their family of five.
“Early this year, he complained of a sore throat before being diagnosed with
throat cancer,” she said.
She also said many of her neighbors, who were previously healthy people, had
suddenly sickened and died from cancer.
Pham Thi Hien from Minh Duc Town’s Quyet Tam Village said she was diagnosed with
endometrial cancer after giving birth earlier this year and suffering continuous
The woman’s reproductive organs were removed to prevent the spread of cancer to
Hien’s husband, Nguyen Van Trung, said his father died of liver cancer two
Most local officials and residents blamed the deadly diseases on environmental
pollution from industrial firms in the town. However, Hai Phong Health
Department did not confirm the cause in a recent report on the deaths. In 2005,
the city’s Department of Science and Technology conducted research which found
air pollution in Hai Phong was up to 12 times higher than the allowed level in
The department also found high concentrations of arsenic, a potent poison, in
the underground water.
Local residents also complain of the fumes emanating from cement companies
Chinfon and Hai Phong.
Chinfon Cement Company has been emitting exhaust gases only at night following
complaints but the Hai Phong Cement Company still pollutes the air day and
night, a resident said.
“Most of the locals don’t have white shirts because they easily get dirty from
dust in the air,” said another resident. “We can’t dry clothes outside for the
Locals also said many other firms had caused serious pollution in the area,
including Pha Rung Shipyard, Minh Duc Chemical Factory and Trang Kenh Coal Factory.
“Trang Kenh Coal Factory is supposed to be the first cause of pollution,” an
official from Minh Duc Town’s People Committee, who asked to remain anonymous,
said. “You can sneeze all day if you accidentally inhale fumes from the factory.
“All workers there had unhealthy-looked skin and I am afraid that they won’t
survive for long,” she said.
She also named some of the ex-workers there who had cancer or who had already died.
The trucks that carried materials and products for those firms have also
contributed to the town’s pollution problem.
Nga from the town’s Quyet Hung residential area said, “My baby always has a
runny nose, a cough and tears because of the dusty street.”
Residents also said some of them had tried to block the street with rocks but
the truck drivers removed them and continued driving.
In 2007, local authorities built a system to supply fresh water, but not all
residents benefited. Many of them still use rainwater or underground well water,
which could be tainted by the air and water pollution.
Reported by Luu Quang Pho
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