Ngo Duc Minh, from the Soils and Fertilizers Institute, Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Hanoi was awarded £2,500 to develop a risk assessment model to evaluate different exposure pathways for heavy metals in rural Vietnam. In these districts, people are exposed to heavy metals through a number of different routes including occupational (e.g. metal smelting/recycling), dietary exposure (from rice and vegetable crops irrigated with waste water), and via drinking water. Extensive questionnaire data have been collected as part of a wider SIDA-funded project.

These data provide detailed information on lifestyle, diet, occupation, and health in a number of rural Vietnamese communities. We have also taken soil, rice and vegetable samples from fields surrounding these communities and analysed these for a range of heavy metals and other elements important in metal solubility and uptake by crop plants. The risk analysis will use modelled data on crop uptake, and the questionnaire data, to evaluate the magnitude of exposures from different sources/pathways. The output of the model will be used to identify which activities pose the greatest risks to human health, which societal groups are most vulnerable, and potentially aid design of strategies to reduce exposure.

This work will be carried out in collaboration with Dr. Rupert Hough from the Macaulay Institute in Aberdeen, UK and Prof. Ingrid Oborn of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.