Dioxin suspected as possible cause of bizarre skin disease

Doctors in the Children Hospital No.2 in Ho Chi Minh City are now suspecting exposure to dioxin as a possible cause of the bizarre skin disease in patients arriving from Ba To District in the central province of Quang Ngai.

Medical workers take samples of water from a stream where residents of Ba Dien Commune draw water for daily use

More than a week back, the hospital had received three patients suffering from the unidentified skin disease, from Reu Village of Ba Dien Commune in Ba To District. Doctors took a biopsy of skin lesions from all the three patients, Pham Thi Tren, 14, Pham Dinh Hieu, 6, and Pham Quoc Bao, 5.

According to the doctors, the skin disease may be reoccurring due to   exposure to toxic and harmful substances like dioxin, which can penetrate air, soil, sediments, food and water.

Dr. Ho Thi Kim Thoa, who is directly treating the above cases, said the children all suffered from severe damage to liver, kidney, heart and hearing, and their condition had not improved, despite blood filtering many times.

The hospital said it had not yet identified the cause of the disease but thinks a possible cause to be dioxin or arsenic poisoning, as hair samples taken from a boy who died at Children Hospital No.1 in HCMC showed high levels of arsenic content.  One hair sample contained arsenic levels more than 100 times above normal.

Parents of Pham Dinh Hieu and Pham Quoc Bao said they live in a mountainous region where most of the residents collect stream water for daily use and for growing agricultural produce. Hence, the stream water might be polluted with dangerous toxic substances.

The ministry has announced that up till now at least 214 people from Ba To District have been infected and suffering from the bizarre and  unknown skin disease, with 23 having already succumbed to it.

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By T. Lam - Translated by Uyen Phuong

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