A young man captured in a video at a galamsey site in the Western Region has boasted about how medicinal the use of mercury can be for a person.
In the video captured by one of Ghana’s foremost drone pilots and documentary producers, Edem Srem, the young man, popularly known as DC, explained that he takes in some mercury occasionally because it helps his human metabolism.
Speaking in the Twi language while washing off his ‘catch’ in an aluminium bowl, he speaks of how mercury helps him.
“I can suck the med (mercury) and drink. It is medicine. When you are constipated and you take it, it relieves you. But you need to take it in small quantities, otherwise it will kill you.
“I know mercury is not good, but because of the work we do, if this was true poison, they wouldn’t continue to bring it. And you know, we use our hands, but when we get food, we do not wash our hands before eating, but we don’t care. When we get the money, I will look fresh,” he naively boasted.
Illegal mining activities have been on the radar of the sitting government since it took over power in 2017, but the fight against the menace has severally been met with a lot of bottlenecks.
The activities of these miners have also continued to affect water bodies and destroy many vegetative covers in the country.
Key facts of mercury according to the WHO:
– Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in air, water and soil.
– Exposure to mercury – even small amounts – may cause serious health problems, and is a threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life.
– Mercury may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.
– Mercury is considered by WHO as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern.
– People are mainly exposed to methylmercury, an organic compound, when they eat fish and shellfish that contain the compound.
– Methylmercury is very different to ethylmercury. Ethylmercury is used as a preservative in some vaccines and does not pose a health risk.
Health effects of mercury exposure:
Elemental and methylmercury are toxic to the central and peripheral nervous systems. The inhalation of mercury vapour can produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs and kidneys, and may be fatal. The inorganic salts of mercury are corrosive to the skin, eyes and gastrointestinal tract, and may induce kidney toxicity if ingested.
Neurological and behavioural disorders may be observed after inhalation, ingestion or dermal exposure of different mercury compounds. Symptoms include tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular effects, headaches and cognitive and motor dysfunction. Mild, subclinical signs of central nervous system toxicity can be seen in workers exposed to an elemental mercury level in the air of 20 μg/m3 or more for several years. Kidney effects have been reported, ranging from increased protein in the urine to kidney failure.