Agusa T, Trang PT, Lan VM, Anh DH, Tanabe S, Viet PH, Berg M. Human exposure to arsenic from drinking water in Vietnam. Sci Total Environ. 2013 Nov 18. pii: S0048-9697(13)01183-2. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.10.039.
Vietnam is an agricultural country with a population of about 88 million, with some 18 million inhabitants living in the Red River Delta in Northern Vietnam. The present study reports the chemical analyses of 68 water and 213 biological (human hair and urine) samples conducted to investigate arsenic contamination in tube well water and human arsenic exposure in four districts (Tu Liem, Dan Phuong, Ly Nhan, and Hoai Duc) in the Red River Delta. Arsenic concentrations in groundwater in these areas were in the range of <1 to 632μg/L, with severe contamination found in the communities Ly Nhan, Hoai Duc, and Dan Phuong. Arsenic concentrations were markedly lowered in water treated with sand filters, except for groundwater from Hoai Duc. Human hair samples had arsenic levels in the range of 0.07-7.51μg/g, and among residents exposed to arsenic levels ≥50μg/L, 64% of them had hair arsenic concentrations higher than 1μg/g, which is a level that can cause skin lesions. Urinary arsenic concentrations were 4-435μg/g creatinine. Concentrations of arsenic in hair and urine increased significantly with increasing arsenic content in drinking water, indicating that drinking water is a significant source of arsenic exposure for these residents. The percentage of inorganic arsenic (IA) in urine decreased with age, whereas the opposite trend was observed for monomethylarsonic acid (MMA) in urine. Significant co-interactions of age and arsenic exposure status were also detected for concentrations of arsenic in hair and the sum of IA, MMA, and dimethylarsinic acid (DMA) in urine and %MMA. In summary, this study demonstrates that a considerable proportion of the Vietnamese population is exposed to arsenic levels of chronic toxicity, even if sand filters reduce exposure in many households. Health problems caused by arsenic ingestion through drinking water are increasingly reported in Vietnam.