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Vietnam: Cleanup of Dong Mai Village

the details…
Key pollutant
Informal battery recycling
  • Direct contact
  • Soil
Population affected
Children Under 6 Affected
DALYs averted
Used lead acid battery recycling (ULAB)
Cost of project
Marilyn S. Broad Foundation, GAHP, European Commission, World Bank, Green Cross Switzerland, In-Kind contributions of $23,750 from ILMC, University of Washington and Pure Earth)
Project Partners
  • Center for Environment and Community Development (CECoD)
  • Center for Environmental Consultancy and Technology of VEA (CECT)
  • International Lead Management Center (ILMC)
  • University of Washington (UW)


Dong Mai Village, Chi Dao Commune, Van Lam District Vietnam is the site of a severe epidemic of lead poisoning. Blood tests carried out by the University of Washington in 2012 found 15 children with dangerous blood lead levels (BLLs) (≥ 65 ug/dl), 17 children at urgent levels (45 – 65 ug/dl), 70 children at overexposed levels (25 – 44 ug/dl) and 7 children at concerning levels (10 – 19ug/dl). The CDC maintains a level of concern of 5 ug/dl. Lead is an acute neurotoxin with serious implications for brain development and cardiovascular issues.

The cause of the elevated BLLs was decades of informal car battery processing in the village. In this process, lead plates are removed from battery casings by hand and cleaned of lead oxide and sulfide dusts that have accumulated on their exteriors. These dusts are very fine and easily inhaled. Because they contain no inherent commercial value they are regularly discarded in area soils, where they come into contact with children.

In 2008, an industrial area was constructed by the Vietnam Environment Administration (VEA) 1 km south of Dong Mai, and most industrial activity was relocated. However, because lead is very immobile in the environment, surface lead levels in Dong Mai remained dangerously elevated.

Summary of Activities

The project contains five key components, enumerated below:

  1. Community education
  2. Cleaning contaminated home interiors
  3. Covering of contaminated soils with compacted clean soil or cement to prevent exposure (encapsulation).
  4. Construction of a clothes changing facility for the workers to mitigate migration of lead back into the village
  5. Final village inspection and BLL monitoring

All five components were carried out during the time period and within the proposed budget.

39 home interiors were cleaned by Blacksmith staff as part of the project. A protocol used by
Blacksmith elsewhere was modified for Dong Mai. Correct Personal Protective Equipment
(PPE) was used in all cases as were High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuums. These
cleanings were used as demonstrations for community members who then cleaned their own
homes. Testing carried out with the use a hand held X-ray Florescence (XRF) instrument in all
39 homes indicated significant declines in surface lead levels. Declines were also noted during
spot checks of homes cleaned by residents.

Final environmental sampling in all remediated yards was conducted with a handheld XRF and
found levels at or below 50ppm in all yards.
In addition to environmental sampling. Blood Lead Levels (BLLs) were taken from a total of 263
children on two separate dates (December 2013 and September 2014), with 209 of the same
children participating on both dates. BLLs fell from an average of 39.1 ug/dL to an average of
25.35 ug/dl (35.17%). Declines were seen in all age groups and at all levels of exposure

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