Centre for Environment and Community Development (CECoD)
Every day, trucks full of used lead-acid batteries from cars, motorbikes and other vehicles are brought in from across Vietnam to the rural village of Dong Mai in the agricultural heartland of Vietnam.
Dong Mai is one of thousands of toxic “craft” villages that dot the Vietnamese landscape.
More like factory collectives, each “craft” village focuses on the manufacture of one product in an informal, cottage industry-type setting. The village of Dong Mai specializes in the recycling of used lead acid batteries.
For years, almost every family in the village of about 3000 residents, recycled batteries informally without any precautions.Villagers broke batteries by hand, dumped the acid into rivers and sewers, and smelted toxic lead in their backyards. As a result, the village was severely contaminated with toxic lead. Blood tests carried out by University of Washington of 263 village children in 2012 found more than 100 children with blood lead levels 5 to 13 times greater than CDC’s level of concern of 5 ug/dl.
In 2008, an industrial area was constructed by the Vietnam Environment Administration )1 km south of Dong Mai, and most industrial activity was relocated there. However, because lead is immobile in the environment, soil and home interior lead levels in Dong Mai remained dangerously elevated.
Pure Earth completed construction of special changing rooms for workers to reduce the amount of toxic lead dust they bring home to their families on their clothing and in their hair.
At the same time, Pure Earth held meetings to educate villagers about the dangers of lead. The team also went house-to-house to hand out informational flyers.
Most importantly, Pure Earth began the cleanup of the worst contaminated homes. Many had an average of 4,000 ppm of lead (the U.S. EPA standard is 400 ppm), with the most contaminated areas measuring above 20,000 ppm. To date, over 40 homes and yards have been remediated.
While we started the cleanup, the residents of Dong Mai are taking it to the next level by investing in their future. The villagers have been contributing money to pay for the construction of paved roads that now criss-cross the rural community of Dong Mai in Vietnam. Paved roads help to reduce the spread of pollution throughout the village.