33 times higher than norm: arsenic levels in rural Hanoi
People in rural areas of Hanoi want access to simple and efficient decentralised water treatment technologies to improve their drinking water all year round.
Pham Thi Kim Trang and her colleagues from the Center for Environmental Technology and Sustainable Development (CETASD) - a UTS partner on the arsenic elimination project funded by a DFAT-Google Technology Against Poverty Prize – surveyed people in an area of higher than average arsenic concentrations.
Many studies on the groundwater quality in Hanoi’s Hoai Duc rural district show that the arsenic concentration is 33 times higher than the national standard. An analysis of hair samples shows arsenic has accumulated in human bodies and is affecting human health, while the local Son Dong Commune Health Centre suspects 15 recent deaths from cancer were arsenic-related. So it’s no wonder people are worried about immediate and long term health outcomes.
A lack of clear information and awareness about the extent of the arsenic problem and potential solutions has seen scam operators visiting the district, and feeding off people’s fears.
In Hong Thai Commune, Phu Xuyen rural district, we found that multi-level marketers have come to this commune, using unidentified quick tests to ‘warn’ local people about contaminated water and persuade them to buy their products.
Pham Thi Kim Trang
Local residents use rainwater stored in tanks as their main source of drinking water but are unsure whether the quality is safe enough. When tank levels fall during the dry season, most households then resort to groundwater to meet their needs. The traditional groundwater treatment (sand filtration) method partly reduces arsenic in groundwater but, according to Trang, does not meet standards for clean drinking water.
People have legitimate health concerns, and need information to prevent them being taken advantage of. They need filtration technologies that are cost effective, simple, and easy to use and maintain in rural areas.