MEDICS and public health officials yesterday visited some 200 people living in three villages near a gold mine in Phichit’s Thab Khlo district to provide them healthcare after tests showed they have excessive amounts of heavy metals in their blood.
The visit, in which medical advice was also given, was in line with the policy of a five-party committee tasked with solving issues arising from the gold mine’s operations.
The move followed Rangsit University last week presenting the test results to the committee via Phichit Governor Chatraporn Ratdusadee.
The tests revealed 675 of the 1,004 people living near the gold mine, who were tested in August and September, had excessive amounts of heavy metals in their blood.
The tests, which were analysed by Ramathibodi Hospital and the Department of Medical Sciences, also found 420 had high levels of manganese in their blood, 196 people had arsenic in their blood and 59 had cyanide.
Some 220 of the 675 with heavy metal in the blood are children aged under 15.
The operator of the gold mine, Akara Resources Plc, claimed the Rangsit University study was not carried out in accordance with the epidemiology principle for testing for heavy metals.
The company wants what it described as a more neutral agency to conduct the tests in accordance with international standards.
Akara’s head of corporate affairs Cherdsak Utha-aroon claimed the study results did not clearly indicate the area of the study and the sample group’s size.
He said the study did not comply with international standards in drawing its conclusions.
He said the university’s results were very different from results of tests by the Public Health Ministry and the Pollution Control Department on vegetables and water quality in the area, which showed they were safe to consume.
Akara cited an independent expert on environmental toxicology, Vichayut Thabwong, who claimed the university’s study was “incomplete in various points”.
Vichayut said there was no explanation as to why the 1,004 samples were selected or whether they were taken in accordance with the epidemiology principle.
In relation to testing for arsenic in the blood, Vichayut questioned whether those tested were told to stop eating seafood and herbs at least 48 hours being tested.
The study also did not say how many of those tested were smokers despite the possibility inhaling nicotine could affect the cyanide test results.