Mercury poisoning in 2 villages of Pueto Princessa City. Government study confirms mass infections. Villages likely to be evacuated shortly by city administration.

PICS Medscape and wikipedia

PICS Medscape and wikipedia

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The Philippines is a nation that has too many adversaries and hardships; some problems are man-made while others are natural.

Palawan has a densely populated Mercury site abandoned quite some time ago. It is located on the outskirts of the capital Puerto Princessa City. The authorities detected several cases of Mercury Poisoning in the vicinity of the old mine site.

A study conducted by the Departments of Environment revealed that Mercury Poisoning was rampant in the area. The community leaders have given a call for tackling this problem by evacuating the residents in the vicinity of the mines.

Some are demanding that the government declare a medical emergency and take up a mass treatment program for the patients. The effect is concentrated mainly in the villages of Tagburos and Sta. Lourdes with a high percentage of residents infected.

In fact, the report by the government departments states that most of the residents had Mercury poisoning. However, the degree of infection differed between the individuals. The infection was mainly due to contamination of marine products due to the presence of Mercury.

The findings of the study kept secret; they were presented only to the city administration of Puerto Princessa City. The agencies involved in preparing the report are:
• Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR),
• Department of Health (DOH), and
• Officials of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB),

The results are not yet clear to the general public; however, plans are afoot to relocate about 80 families as a beginning. The mining company conducted operations from the year 1955 to 1976 as open pit mines. It is now a lake covering 3 hectares. The Philippines exported Mercury mainly to Japan during that period.

Most of the residents tested positive for Mercury Poisoning. The study went on for nearly two years from 2015 onwards. Samples collected from both Sta. Lourdes and Tagburos showed similar poisoning.

Blood Mercury levels ranged between 76.5 percent to almost 87 percent. Of the 91 hair samples checked, five revealed concentrations of 10 PPM (parts per million). 97 percent of the residents of Sta. Lourdes and about 87 percent from Tagburos exhibited the presence of Copper.

However, the tests detected Cadmium to the tune of about 43 percent in the residents of Sta. Lourdes. Moreover, over 38 percent of the residents of Sta. Lourdes were suffering from Chronic Mercury Poisoning.

The experts opined that the consumption of contaminated fish was the major reason for the poisoning. The higher concentrations of Methyl Mercury disclosed that the Mercury had been ingested.

However, the high levels of cadmium and Copper required further testing, the report said. The report also suggested that the common ailment in the residents were those of the Minamata disease.

The symptoms include:
• respiratory problems,
• memory problems,
• gingivitis,
• discoloration of gums,
• Headache,nervousness, numbness,
• difficulty in concentrating,
• palpitations and
• difficulty in sleeping

In addition, the tests also detected the presence of other toxic minerals in the blood stream of the residents.

Consequently, Vice Mayor Nancy Socrates urged Mayor Luis Marcaida in a letter, to take appropriate steps. Since the implications of this report were ominous, she directed the authorities to put together a crisis management team to deal with the grave situation.

She exhorted the city administration to formulate a concrete plan of action to tackle the situation. Socrates further implored the administration officials to rise to the occasion and prove themselves.
The evacuation process recommended by the administration has the backing of all concerned.

City environment and natural resources officer, Lawyer Carlo Gomez, while commending the efoorts, stated that he had endorsed the suggestion.

The evacuations will begin soon, he said.

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Umrao Singh
Written for: Lars-Magnus Carlsson

Wednesday, 07 June 2017