One of the most wonderful things about being a child is that they enter this world with a clean slate. They know nothing of the challenges that can conceivably be encountered along the journey of life, that is, unless they’re born in a developing nation that is not privy to the modern conveniences and health benefits enjoyed by the rest of the globe…or if you happen to live in a region contaminated by naturally occurring geological arsenic sources. Only then are children forced to grow well beyond their years as they wrestle with unimaginable life and death issues, wondering just what their future will hold.
It shouldn’t be that way for a child, but in Born Sweet filmmaker Cynthia Wade highlights the plight of one 15 year old Cambodian boy who dreams of being a karaoke superstar in spite of the fact that he is suffering from arsenic poisoning. Many of us in the western world don’t realize that arsenic groundwater contamination has long been a persistent issue in Asian countries where naturally occurring deposits unfortunately come into contact with aquifers. Several hundred wells in Cambodia were tested by the Ministry of Rural Development in the late 90s and found to contain 50 times more arsenic than is considered tolerable by the human body. While efforts are regularly taken to protect at-risk populations, this is an issue that continues to persist.
A child exposed to consistent levels of arsenic over a long-term period of time can exhibit such symptoms as vomiting, fever, anorexia, dermatological skin issues, and abdominal distention, leading to far more serious life-threatening issues such as cognitive deficits, compromised nervous/cardiovascular systems and various types of cancer. Wade’s documentary puts a face on this silent epidemic and prompts us to root for the underdog, a young boy who clings tightly onto his dreams in spite of what nature his doing to compromise his body.