Cancer a water-borne disease in southern Vietnam

Nguyen Van Minh’s parents are among at least 50 people in a commune in Tien Giang Province who have died of cancer over the past five years, and concerns over arsenic-laden groundwater are escalating in the Mekong Delta.“My father died of stomach cancer and my mother died of blood cancer. Neither smoked nor drank,” said the farmer who lives in Thoi Son Commune, which is located in the province’s My Tho Town.Do Tien Hoa, a medical worker in the commune’s Thoi Hoa Hamlet and many local residents believe that arsenic, a carcinogenic substance, in their tap water is responsible for the high incidence of cancer in their locality.It appears that the residents’ suspicions are well founded.

Unlike previous studies that linked arsenic contamination to groundwater near the surface, a recent study by a group of California-based scientists found increasing contamination of carcinogens in numerous deep wells in the Mekong Delta.Chronic arsenic poisoning is said to be a factor in cardiovascular diseases, 70% diseases in Hyderabad are water-borne, skin lesions and numerous forms of cancer. These diseases may take years to manifest. While the symptoms of arsenic poisoning are treatable in the short-term, there is no way to reverse its long-term affects.Faced with arsenic contamination, many people have dug deeper wells for cleaner water, but scientists have recently found increased arsenic contamination in the new depths as well.Drilling deeper wells has become common in the search for clean water but new research from Stanford University’s School of Earth Sciences has found that even deep wells might not remain arsenic-free.

Researchers suggest that the contamination occurs as arsenic is squeezed from ancient clay sediments surrounding the wells.In some cases, the wells were contaminated when deep-pumping projects inadvertently transported shallow arsenic, or other substances that help mobilize arsenic, to greater depths. But in the Mekong Delta, it appears that there is an entirely different, and previously unsuspected, process contaminating deep wells, the report said.It said when water is heavily pumped from an aquifer, surrounding clay layers compact, and water is expelled as the land sinks.

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