BINH DINH — Residents in three villages in central Binh Dinh Province still face substantial health risks due to high levels of fluoride in water supplies, despite efforts to provide safe drinking water.
A study carried out in 2006 by the Binh Dinh Science and Technology Department and the HCM City Polytechnic University concluded that geological factors had led to highly concentrated levels of flouride in Hoa Hiep and Que Chau villages, as well as Village Number 2.
Although fluoride is added to water supplies to help preserve people’s teeth in some countries, such as Australia, too much fluoride in drinking water can have serious health consequences.
Man Ngoc Ly, director of the Binh Dinh Science and Technology Department, said the high level of fluoride was leading to bone disease, muscle atrophy and black teeth among local residents.
The Rural Clean Water Project was launched in affected hamlets in 2007, providing households with safe water at VND3,000 per cubic metre. Authorities have also promoted low-interest loans from the State to help local families switch to clean water supplies, but these solutions have not totally solved the problem.
Low-income families in particular are not taking advantage of the loans, as many doubt whether they can repay them despite the low interest rates.
Nguyen Xuan Duong, secretary of Binh Dinh provincial Party Committee, said Hoa Hiep Village was is the worst affected area, with about 70 households out of 740 affected by the high level of fluoride.
Many others in other village also have suffered. The family of Le Van May in Hoa Loc village has seven members, all with black teeth.
May said the effect of the water could be seen when cooking rice.
“It turns white rice into a greenish, yellow colour,” May said.
Mai Thi Chuc in Hoa Loc Village has black teeth and a bent back, a sign of bone disease. There are about 15 people in their fifties with back problems in the village.
Dao Thi Hoang Anh, a doctor from the Central Tooth-Jaw-Face Hospital in HCM City, said people who had black teeth could get them whitened.
“The cost of this procedure depends on how bad their teeth are, but it usually costs between VND80,000 and 200,000 (US$4-11) per tooth,” said Anh.
“The procedure doesn’t do any harm to the teeth.”
Nguyen Van Thanh, vice principal of Binh Tuong Primary School said almost 90 per cent of children at his school had stained teeth.
“Because of this they avoid smiling and lack confidence,” Thanh said.
According to Deputy Director of the HCM City, Department of Natural Resource and Environment Dr Nguyen Van Phuoc, who led the 2006 study on fluoride in local water supplies, more than 60 per cent of three communes’ water samples exceeded standard levels of fluoride.
Director of Binh Dinh Science and Technology Department Man Ngoc Ly said the standard fluoride content in water was between 0.7-1.2mg/per litre.
“If the fluoride content is higher than 4mg per litre, it has a serious impact on bones,” he said.
The 2006 study found that water samples from the three affected areas contained between 0.7mg and to 8.6mg per litre.