In keeping with the theme of this year’s World Environment Day, 2017 – Connecting people to nature – Toxics Link, an environmental research and advocacy organization engaged in disseminating information and helping strengthen campaigns against toxic pollution, has urged people to protect and preserve the nature by connecting with it responsibly.
One of the ways that the public can respond to conservation efforts towards nature is by protecting themselves and the environment from mercury poisoning.
According to UNEP estimations, there are no safe levels of exposure to mercury. In fact, mercury is widely used in everyday products, including cosmetics, light bulbs, and batteries multiplying the hazard to health manifold. The use of mercury is widely pervasive in the healthcare sector in making dental amalgams, developing medical equipment such as thermometers and sphygmomanometers. Globally, about 260 to 340 tonne of Hg – are released, annually, into the environment from the use of dental amalgam.
Mercury is a naturally occurring element and its compounds have serious effects on human and animal health. The element is highly toxic and can harm the brain, kidneys, lungs, while also posing direct risks to unborn and premature children by causing the underdevelopment of their nervous systems. Mercury poisoning also poses serious threat to the health of lactating mothers and pregnant women, as well.
Encouraging people to avoid the usage of mercury, and to connect with the environment with much deeper commitment, Satish Sinha, Associate Director, Toxics Link said, “There is a need to take collective action to combat the menace of mercury toxicity by choosing mercury free products, and to secure a cleaner, non-toxic world for ourselves and for generations ahead.” He also mentioned the need for the Indian government to initiate measures for gradual phasing-out of mercury as required under the Minamata convention.
In addition to toxic absorption through dental fillings, the general population is exposed to waste mercury through the consumption of contaminated food (e.g., fish), water and air. Dietary intake of methylmercury through fish and other seafood products is the predominant non-occupational exposure source for the public.
As Minamata Convention comes into force on 16 August 2017, we require a comprehensive strategy to deal with mercury usage across sectors also for safe handling of mercury waste. This will go a long way in protecting human health and environment.