Improving human health outcomes with a low-cost intervention to reduce exposures from lead acid battery recycling: Dong Mai, Vietnam

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Abstract

This study details the first comprehensive evaluation of the efficacy of a soil lead mitigation project in Dong Mai village, Vietnam. The village's population had been subject to severe lead poisoning for at least a decade as a result of informal Used Lead Acid Battery (ULAB) recycling. Between July 2013 to February 2015, Pure Earth and the Centre for Environment and Community Development (Hanoi, Vietnam) implemented a multi-faceted environmental and human health intervention. The intervention consisted of a series of institutional and low-cost engineering controls including the capping of lead contaminated surface soils, cleaning of home interiors, an education campaign and the construction of a work-clothes changing and bathing facility. The mitigation project resulted in substantial declines in human and environmental lead levels. Remediated home yard and garden areas decreased from an average surface soil concentration of 3940 mg/kg to <100 mg/kg. One year after the intervention, blood lead levels in children (<6 years old) were reduced by an average of 67%—from a median of 40.4 μg/dL to 13.3 μg/dL. The Dong Mai project resulted in significantly decreased environmental and biological lead levels demonstrating that low-cost, rapid and well-coordinated interventions could be readily applied elsewhere to significantly reduce preventable human health harm.

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