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Vietnamese incinerators create deadly dioxin gases

Many incinerators in Viet Nam are discharging high amount of dioxins into the environment, according to a new research.

The research was carried out by the project titled Environmental Remediation in Dioxin Contaminated Hotspots in Viet Nam organised by the Office of National Steering Committee 33, the body in charge of handling the consequences of toxic chemicals used by the United States during the war in Viet Nam and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE).

The research results were extracted in a report on the dioxin contamination in the environment of Viet Nam issued in November last year.

“In this report, Viet Nam admits for the first time that there’s dioxin discharged from industrial activities besides dioxin left from the war,” Le Ke Son, director of the project and former deputy head of Environment Agency under the MONRE, was quoted by Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper as saying.

Incinerators that burn industrial and medical waste generate most dioxin. This is shown by examination of dioxin and dioxin related compounds (DRCs) in their emission and sewage, the report said.

According to the World Health Organisation, dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer.

Dioxin influences people’s health, mainly through breathing toxic air and eating polluted food. The emission of dioxin into the environment can directly affect people and animals, while the discharge of dioxin-contaminated sewage poses risk to land, water, sediment and animals.

The researchers took 18 emissions samples from medical, industrial and urban incinerators. All contained DRCs. Seven exceeding the safe limit from several to dozens of times.

Safety issue
Three out of seven samples taken from Ha Noi’s incinerators exceeded the safe limit with the one sample 16 times over the allowed level of 600 picograms toxic equivalent (TEQ) of dioxin per normal cubic metre.

Hai Duong Province had two samples of industrial waste treatment with TEQ of dioxin up to 46,800 picograms, or 81 times over the allowed level. HCM City had one sample that exceeded the permissible level by five times.

Viet Nam does not set a dioxin limit for sewage, but based on the Japanese standard of 10 picograms per normal cubic metre, HCM City has the worst dioxin pollution with three out of five samples polluted with one exceeding the limit by 5,000 times.

Two samples in Ha Noi were five and 23 times over the limit while four samples in Hai Duong Province were between three and 129 times above the permited level.

Son blamed backward technology for generating dioxin at incineration plants.

Most incinerators in Viet Nam had low capacity and few could reach the temperature needed to break down dioxin, he said. Besides, the emissions in a number of incinerators were treated by cooling, which raise concern over discharging dioxin emission into the atmosphere.

According Nguyen Huy Nga, former director of the Health Environment Management Agency under the Ministry of Health, incinerators have been banned in developed countries for many years as it pollutes the environment and poses threat to people’s health. In Viet Nam, the Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment also recommend not using incinerators.

The country now has about 400 incinerators for treating medical waste. Most have been in operation since 2000, he said.

“In 2012, MONRE set a standard for industrial incinerators. However, none of the incinerators for medical waste meet the standard,” Nga told the newspaper.

He expressed deep concern about dioxin pollution as many of the incinerators were near residential areas.