Ar­senic lev­els fall since min­ing end

Learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties also down: sur­vey

Bangkok Post - - NATIONAL -

A new fi­nalised study that was com­pleted in 2019 has found that the lev­els of ar­senic in chil­dren liv­ing near a gold mine that was shut three years ago dropped sharply since an ear­lier study in 2016.

The study cor­re­sponded with a sig­nif­i­cant de­crease in learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties that were linked to the chil­dren’s ex­po­sure to the poi­sonous chem­i­cal el­e­ment.

The study was car­ried out last year on about 200 Prathom 4-6 stu­dents in six schools in Phi­chit, Phit­san­u­lok and Phetch­abun, in ar­eas that sur­rounded the for­mer lo­ca­tion of a gold mine that was shut down three years be­fore that.

It found only 4.5% of these stu­dents were found to still have high lev­els of ar­senic, 12 times lower than that (36.1%) found in a pre­vi­ous study car­ried out in 2016 be­fore the gold mine was shut­down.

Funded by the Health Sys­tems Re­search In­sti­tute (HSRI), the study was car­ried out by Na­tional In­sti­tute for Child and Fam­ily Devel­op­ment (NICFD) of Mahi­dol Univer­sity on the same six schools stud­ied in 2016.

Jointly car­ried out by the Public Health Min­istry and Ra­math­i­bodi Hospi­tal, the 2016 study was con­ducted af­ter a large num­ber of com­plaints were re­ceived from vil­lagers in the area about ar­senic con­tam­i­na­tion in the en­vi­ron­ment, which was blamed on the gold mine. How­ever, this sharp drop was found across all ages and sexes, said the 2019 study.

The share of a group of 126 stu­dents with in­tel­li­gence quo­tient (IQ) scores of 90 and higher who still had learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties also fell to 22.22% from 38.9% in the 2016 study.

And in a fol­low-up pro­gramme car­ried out af­ter the 2019 study on a group of stu­dents found to have an av­er­age IQ score of less than 90 (85.43), the stu­dents were found to have a higher av­er­age IQ score of 90.11, which is con­sid­ered to be a nor­mal in­tel­li­gence level, the HSRI said yes­ter­day.

The pro­gramme was aimed at re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing learn­ing abil­i­ties of the low IQ group through en­hanc­ing their read­ing, spell­ing, sen­tence com­pre­hen­sion and math­e­matic skills, said the HSRI.

As­soc Prof Adisak Pl­i­tapolka­rn­pim, a NICFD re­searcher, said the sharp de­crease in ar­senic lev­els in these chil­dren was a re­sult of en­vi­ron­men­tal re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion work car­ried out dur­ing the three years af­ter the gold mine shut.

“The govern­ment should think more care­fully as to how it will pre­vent chil­dren and their com­mu­ni­ties from ex­po­sure to new heavy metal poi­son­ing [that may be caused by new gold min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties if the mines are au­tho­rised to op­er­ate again],” said the re­searcher.

Nop­porn Chuen­klin, direc­tor of the HSRI, said heavy metal con­tam­i­na­tion in the food chain and the en­vi­ron­ment ac­tu­ally af­fects ev­ery one, but chil­dren are five times more vul­ner­a­ble to the im­pact on their health.

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