By PRAPAPORN KREUNGEW
About 90 per cent of Karen villagers in Tambon Mae Chan of Tak's Umphang district have high levels of lead in their blood, Umphang Hospital director Dr Worawit Tantithanasap reported yesterday.
The hospital is running random blood tests on local pregnant women in a bid to prevent lead poisoning in foetuses.
Worawit said the latest random check at Mae Chan revealed lead contamination in 90 per cent of the 200 Karen locals, while tests on Thai residents in Tambon Um Phang have shown no such contamination.
Twelve Mae Chan villagers had dangerously high levels of lead in their blood: eight had 45 microgram per decilitre and four had 40 mcg/dl, exceeding the Disease Control Department’s “danger” rating of 10 mcg/dl for children and 25 for adults. X-ray tests on the 12 villagers found that eight also had lead in their bones, suggesting they had been exposed to the poison since being in the womb.
Officials believe the source of the lead poisoning is either low quality cooking pots known as mor khaek, solar cells or lead leaking from batteries.
CHEAP POTS MAY BE TO BLAME
Worawit said the cheap mor khaek, produced in a neighbouring country, were popular among locals. A lab test found that prolonged use of the low-cost pots could result |in lead contamination, which |could pass from mothers to unborn babies.
While warning people about the dangers of using mor khaek, the hospital would ask related agencies to provide villagers with safe pots while also randomly checking domestically made cooking containers for lead, he added.
In related news, Public Health Minister Witthaya Buranasiri yesterday reported that cancer killed some 50,000 Thais each year.
Presiding over the opening ceremony of the National Cancer Institute’s 11th National Cancer Conference at Rama Gardens Hotel, Witthaya said the World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that cancer causes 7.6 million deaths per year worldwide.
The WHO regards lead as “probably a carcinogen to humans”. Forecasts suggest that by the year 2030, global cancer deaths will rise to 17 million per year, added Witthaya.
CANCER TOP KILLER IN THAILAND
In Thailand, cancer has been the No 1 cause of death since 2000, he said, and in 2010 alone, 269,204 Thais were hospitalised with cancer while 58,076 died of the disease.
The majority succumbed to cancers of the liver and bile duct, followed by throat, lung, breast and cervical cancer.
The number of Thai cancer patients was expected to grow to 133,767 by 2015, said Witthaya, with cancer deaths set to hit 84,662.