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BMC Public Health

, 14:114

Environmental health


BackgroundIn Vietnam, environmental pollution caused by small-scale domestic smelting of automobile batteries into lead ingot is a growing concern. The village of Nghia Lo is a smelting craft village located roughly 25 km southeast of Hanoi in the Red River Delta. Despite the concern of toxic metal exposure in the village, biomonitoring among susceptible populations, such as children, has not been previously conducted. The aim of this study was to determine the body burden of toxic metals in children residing in a smelting craft village.

MethodsTwenty children from Nghia Lo, Vietnam, ages 18 months to four years were selected for capillary whole blood and toenail biomonitoring. Whole blood lead levels BLLs were measured using a portable lead analyzer, and toenail levels of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, and mercury were analyzed with inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry.

ResultsThe findings show that all of the 20 children had detectable BLLs, and every child had levels that exceeded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guideline level of 5 μg-dL. Eighty percent of tested subjects had BLLs higher than 10 μg-dL. Five children 25% had BLLs greater than 45 μg-dL, the level of recommended medical intervention. In addition to blood lead, all of the children had detectable levels of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, and mercury in toenail samples. Notably, average toenail lead, manganese, and mercury levels were 157 μg-g, 7.41 μg-g, and 2.63 μg-g respectively, well above levels previously reported in children. Significant Spearman’s rank correlations showed that there were relationships between blood and toenail lead levels r = 0.65, p < 0.05, toenail levels of lead and cadmium r = 0.66, p < 0.05, and toenail levels of manganese and chromium r = 0.72, p < 0.001. Linear regression showed that reducing the distance to the nearest active smelter by half was associated with a 116% increase in BLL p < 0.05.

ConclusionsThe results suggest that children in battery recycling and smelting craft villages in Vietnam are co-exposed to toxic metals. There is an urgent need for mitigation to control metal exposure related to domestic smelting.


BLLBlood lead level



CDCCenters for disease control and prevention

GPSGlobal positioning system


IQIntelligence quotient

LODLimit of detection


NHANES IVFourth report on human exposure to environmental chemicals


WHOWorld Health Organization.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1471-2458-14-114 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Alison P Sanders, Sloane K Miller contributed equally to this work.

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Autor: Alison P Sanders - Sloane K Miller - Viet Nguyen - Jonathan B Kotch - Rebecca C Fry


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