People living near mines seek to get blood tests

People living near mines seek to get blood tests

Residents living near three gold mines in Phichit, Phitsanulok and Sara Buri provinces yesterday made a joint request with Central Institute of Forensic Science (CIFS) - seeking advanced blood tests for 6,000 people after initial results found 282 villagers had excessive heavy metal levels in their blood.

Thirty representatives met with CIFS director Khunying Pornthip Rojjanasunan at its Bangkok compound to make the request. The ratio of heavy metals found in villagers was regarded as high, as the 282 villagers were nearly half of a total of 731 given random tests.

Pornthip said it was the first time that a blood test, which cost the CIFS Bt1,000 each, was conducted on such a large number at one time.

She suggested to the group that they make a joint request to the PM's Office Ministry, as that was easier for the CIFS administratively to help them with the tests for all the 6,000 people.

She said it was "worrying" that children were among 282 people with excessive heavy metal found in their blood, and explained that everybody was at risk of developing abnormalities in their DNA or having cancer, and exposure could cause birth defects in later generations.

Another group of villagers converged at the Department of Primary Industries and Mines to ask that an risk fund of Akara Resources Plc, which operates a number of those mines, contribute some money to help or rehabilitate people with heavy metals found in their blood or affected by other problems.

The firm has deposited Bt10 million annually to this fund and the total amount should now reach Bt100 million, they said, during a meeting with department officials.

The department issued an order on January 13 requiring the firm to stop operations at a mine in Phichit, pending a probe into the blood test results and whether the mining |had caused health hazards to villagers.

This occurred after the CIFS gave blood test results showing that 282 villagers had excessive heavy metals in their blood to the provincial governor.

In December last year, four villagers with suspicious health problems in Thab Khlo district, where a mine is sited, signed an agreement with the CIFS offering their bodies to be examined after they die to try to find out if toxic waste from the mine killed them.

Two others have made a similar offer to the CIFS.

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