Women And Children In Gold-mining Areas "Intoxicated" With Mercury | Study
A large number of children of school-going age and women of childbearing age in gold-mining areas in Zimbabwe have high levels of mercury in their bodies, a study has revealed.
According to the study carried out by Dr. Dennis Shoko, a local academic, and other researchers from outside Zimbabwe, titled “Country Diagnostic Report on Environmental Health Implications of Mercury in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining in Zimbabwe” women miners living and working in areas where mercury is used are exposed to danger.
The mercury, which is used to process gold, exposes women and their children to lifelong diseases such as brain damage, kidney failure and heart diseases.
The study sought to measure infants’ and mothers’ levels of mercury in urine, hair and breast milk in the gold-rich area of Chakari, Kadoma.
It involved 120 mothers whose breast milk samples were analysed from four different groups. Part of the study reads:
High levels of mercury were found in breast milk in the Kadoma/Chakari area, which unduly exposes breastfeeding infants.
A large number of children of school-going age and women of childbearing age are already intoxicated or with elevated levels of mercury in their bodies.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail, specialist obstetrician Dr. Antony Muchabaiwa said:
Mercury can pass from a mother to her baby through the placenta during pregnancy and, in smaller amounts, through breast milk after birth.
Exposure to mercury can affect the infant’s brain and nervous system development during pregnancy and after birth.
Paediatrician Professor Douglas Chirenji told The Sunday Mail that chronic mercury exposure results in mental retardation, delayed development, language disorders and seizures in children.
An estimated 1.5 million local artisanal gold miners reportedly use about 50 tonnes of mercury to process gold annually.