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Authorities Confirm Hanoians Exposed to Mercury, Yet Confusion Remains

Following much confusion, environment officials confirmed yesterday that residents living within 500 meters of a light bulb factory that burned down in Hanoi's Thanh Xuan District last week have been exposed to mercury. 

A huge fire tore through Rang Dong Light Source and Vacuum Flask Joint Stock Company’s warehouse last Wednesday, creating plumes of smoke that could be seen across the capital and prompting the evacuation of 58 families.

Following the disaster, Hanoians have become increasingly concerned about health and safety, a worry that's been exacerbated by conflicting reports in the media. 

The company claimed that over 15 kilograms of mercury has been released into the air since the fire. In a press conference held yesterday, however, environment officials claimed the actual figure could be closer to 27 kilograms.

"The Rang Dong fire has inflicted big damage on assets and has had negative effects on nearby residents and environment," Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Vo Tuan Nhan said, according to VnExpress.

Environment officials claimed mercury levels within the warehouse reached as much as 10 to 30 times higher than safety limits, while samples taken within a one-kilometer radius exceeded safety standards six-fold, according to the news outlet. 

Another article by Zing (link in Vietnamese) discussed the conflicting information provided about the fire, particularly that experts have criticized test results, and that on some days the area has been declared safe, while on subsequent days stated as dangerous. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that mercury has toxic effects on human health, including on the immune and nervous systems, as well as kidneys, lungs, skin and eyes. Several people who were evacuated from the area reported fatigue and stinging eyes.

[Photo via Wikipedia]


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