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Inorganic arsenic contamination and the health of children living near an inactive mining site: northern Thailand.


Kunwittaya S, Ruksee N, Khamnong T, Jiawiwatkul A, Kleebpung N, Chumchua V, Plitponkarnpim A, Nopparat C, Permpoonputtana K
EXCLI J. 2022; 21:1007-1014.
PMID: 36110556.


Arsenic toxicity is a global health problem affecting millions of people. Contamination is caused by arsenic from natural geological sources leaching into aquifers, contaminating drinking water, and may also be caused by mining and other industrial processes. Acute arsenic poisoning is associated with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and severe diarrhea. Chronic arsenic toxicity results in multisystemic diseases leading to central nervous system (CNS) impairments such as cognitive or intellectual deficits in children. Over the past ten years, arsenic contamination has been reported in northern Thailand. The Ministry of Public Health; Thailand, Forensic Science Institute Thammasat University, and the Research Center to Promote Safety and Prevent Injuries in Children at the Ramathibodi Hospital compiled a report on the health impact of the population within a 10 kilometer radius around a mine tailing in the Phichit, Phitsanulok, and Phetchabun Provinces of Thailand. It showed that more than 30 % of children (aged 8-13 years) had higher than normal arsenic contamination levels based on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). After the publication of that report, the mine was temporarily closed in 2016. Based on this data, this research aimed to follow arsenic contamination after the mining operation had stopped operation for three years. The study showed that 4.5 % of school aged children had levels of inorganic arsenic in their urine, higher than the normal range (ATSDR), showing clearly that inorganic arsenic contamination is still above the normal range in children living near an inactive mining site Therefore, monitoring heavy metal contamination in Thailand and the health effects on vulnerable children who live near mines during regular operation or after being temporarily suspended can prevent and mitigate possible health impacts.