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|A local woman of Thoi Son Island washes using tap water taken from a well. A local official denied that local water sources were causihg the rising cancer rate on the island. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoang Chung|
More than 50 people in Thoi Son Commune have died from cancer in the last five years, medical statistics show.
The island is a famous tourism spot in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta.
Nguyen Van Minh, a resident in Thoi Thanh Village, said that three years ago one of her parents died from stomach cancer and the other from leukaemia, although they were not addicted to alcohol or cigarette.
"I hope specialists find out reasons for the diseases," he said.
Do Thi Tuyet, head of the Thoi Thuan Village's medical station, said 13 people in the village had died for cancer in the past five years. So far this year two have died from liver cancer.
At present two women in the village suffer from cancer, one of the breast and the other of an ovary.
"Every year two or three people in the village die from the disease," said Tuyet.
Head of Thoi Thanh Village Doan Huu Ba said local residents were very concerned.
"I think the air here was polluted with plant protection substances which were sprayed on fruit trees," he said.
Previously the commune planted trees which needed a lot of insecticides, including longan, plum and grapefruit.
Do Hoa Tien, a medical worker of the Thoi Hoa Village's medical station, blamed substandard sources of water for the disease.
Most residents use water from two water stations which take water from six wells without any treatment. Local residents said the water was yellow and had a bad smell.
Pham Thanh Tam, deputy head of the commune's clean water team, said the water stations were built a long time ago and collect only VND1,500 (US$0.07) for each cubic metre, which was not enough to upgrade the stations.
"It is not right to say the water causes cancer," Tam said.
The HCM City-based Pasteur Institute took urine and hair samples of 100 residents for tests but did not report the results.
At present local residents only use the water for bathing and washing and use rain water for daily meals.
The cancer has left residents puzzled and local authorities tight-lipped.
Nguyen Thi Oanh, head of the Thoi Son Commune's medical station, refused to supply any information on the case.
"I will be blamed by the leaders of the commune people's committee if I reveal any information," she said.
Meanwhile, deputy director of the provincial Department of Health Tran Thanh Thao confirmed cancer in the Thoi Son Commune was quite alarming.
Test results from the two water supplies showed the rate of arsenic was quite high, she said.
"However, we did not affirm that it was the cause for the disease."
Thao said the provincial departments of agriculture, natural resources and environment were responsible for managing water stations.