Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 22, Issue 12, pp 9042–9058 | Cite as

Pesticide pollution of multiple drinking water sources in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam: evidence from two provinces

  • N. D. G. ChauEmail author
  • Z. Sebesvari
  • W. Amelung
  • F. G. Renaud
Research Article


Pollution of drinking water sources with agrochemicals is often a major threat to human and ecosystem health in some river deltas, where agricultural production must meet the requirements of national food security or export aspirations. This study was performed to survey the use of different drinking water sources and their pollution with pesticides in order to inform on potential exposure sources to pesticides in rural areas of the Mekong River delta, Vietnam. The field work comprised both household surveys and monitoring of 15 frequently used pesticide active ingredients in different water sources used for drinking (surface water, groundwater, water at public pumping stations, surface water chemically treated at household level, harvested rainwater, and bottled water). Our research also considered the surrounding land use systems as well as the cropping seasons. Improper pesticide storage and waste disposal as well as inadequate personal protection during pesticide handling and application were widespread amongst the interviewed households, with little overall risk awareness for human and environmental health. The results show that despite the local differences in the amount and frequency of pesticides applied, pesticide pollution was ubiquitous. Isoprothiolane (max. concentration 8.49 μg L−1), fenobucarb (max. 2.32 μg L−1), and fipronil (max. 0.41 μg L−1) were detected in almost all analyzed water samples (98 % of all surface samples contained isoprothiolane, for instance). Other pesticides quantified comprised butachlor, pretilachlor, propiconazole, hexaconazole, difenoconazole, cypermethrin, fenoxapro-p-ethyl, tebuconazole, trifloxystrobin, azoxystrobin, quinalphos, and thiamethoxam. Among the studied water sources, concentrations were highest in canal waters. Pesticide concentrations varied with cropping season but did not diminish through the year. Even in harvested rainwater or purchased bottled water, up to 12 different pesticides were detected at concentrations exceeding the European Commission’s parametric guideline values for individual or total pesticides in drinking water (0.1 and 0.5 μg L−1; respectively). The highest total pesticide concentration quantified in bottled water samples was 1.38 μg L−1. Overall, we failed to identify a clean water source in the Mekong Delta with respect to pesticide pollution. It is therefore urgent to understand further and address drinking water-related health risk issues in the region.


Drinking water Surface water Pesticides Agriculture Pollution Mekong Delta 



The research was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Germany through the Water-related Information System for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong Delta (WISDOM) project in Vietnam. The authors would like to thank the Advanced Laboratory, Can Tho University for making use of their facility and their support during sample preparation. We are also grateful to the Center for Drugs, Cosmetics and Food quality control, Thua Thien Hue Province for their support in method development and sample measurement. We would also like to thank the DONRE of Can Tho for their cooperation. We are very grateful to the comments from four anonymous reviewers who have allowed us to improve our manuscript.

Supplementary material

11356_2014_4034_MOESM1_ESM.docx (47 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 46 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. D. G. Chau
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Z. Sebesvari
    • 1
  • W. Amelung
    • 2
  • F. G. Renaud
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)United Nations UniversityBonnGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Crop Science and Resource Conservation (INRES), Soil Science and Soil EcologyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
  3. 3.Department of Chemistry, College of SciencesHue UniversityHueVietnam

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