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Fish carcasses from die-off might be toxic

Fish carcasses from die-off might be toxic

090903_02
Fisherman Sok Yoeung, 62, oversees the netting of the few live fish remaining in the Tonle Sap river at Prek Phnov on Monday. Health concerns have arisen as fisherman continue to sell both live and dead fish collected from the river, which they say is polluted, for human consumption.

Health official warns against eating potentially poisoned fish.

Amunicipal health official on Wednesday warned vendors not to sell dead fish culled from waters in Kandal province's Doung village, where thousands of fish have died in recent days from what residents say was toxic discharge from a local bio-fuel plant.

Dr Veing Thai, head of the Phnom Penh's municipal health department said eating contaminated fish could result in severe health problems.
"These kinds of toxins are resistant to the body's natural defences and can cause infection of the kidneys and liver," he said.

The health warning follows the closure Tuesday of a South Korean bio-fuel plant, MH Bio-Energy Co, in Doung village after residents complained a foul-smelling liquid discharged from the plant had killed thousands of area fish.

Ith Praing, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, said the closure would remain in effect until a government investigation determined that the plant was not responsible for the dead fish.

Yet area fishermen and vendors continue to purchase and sell the dead fish, with one vendor who refused to be named estimating that as many as 30 tonnes of the potentially contaminated fish had been collected by vendors for sale in markets.

Ou Hong, 56, a fish vendor in Russey Keo district's Chraing Chamrest II, said she was not concerned about the potentially contaminated fish.

"I don't have any problem eating the poisoned fish," she said, adding that she had also purchased about 8 tonnes of the potentially poisoned fish for drying and fish-paste production.

"I paid only US$610 a tonne. It is much cheaper than regular fish," which she said sells for more than $1,400 a tonne.

But Veing Thai said that if the fish are contaminated, eating them could cause severe illness or even death, and he urged municipal authorities to test the fish before allowing anyone to sell it.

Despite the warnings, Sok Touch, director of the Anti-communicable Disease Department at the Ministry of Health, said he was aware of no risks, and that it was a matter for the Ministry of Environment.

Lunh Hell, general director of pollution control at the Ministry of Environment declined to comment Wednesday, saying he was busy with meetings.

Seng Thim, head of the Bassac fishery office at the municipal Fishery Administration, said Wednesday that about 30 families from Doung village who claim their fish were killed by the plant leak were seeking compensation from the company.

He added that the results of tests to determine the cause of death of the fish in Doung village were expected today.

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