NYATIKE, Kenya (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Scorching sun beats down on half a dozen women as they carry large sacks of crushed ore on their backs at the Osiri-Matanda gold mine near Kenya’s border with Tanzania.
On wooden tables, they sieve the powdered ore into metal pans, add mercury, and heat the mixture over a charcoal fire. The air fills with fumes as the liquid metal evaporates - leaving behind a lump of gold.
To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, Landscapes News is publishing a series of stories honoring women with a laurel for their dedication to improving the landscape. In this profile, Landscapes News contributor Alexandra Popescu writes about Yuyun Ismawati. Check Viewpoint all week for more laurel recipients.
A lifelong environmental activist working to improve livelihoods across Southeast Asia, a Goldman Environmental Prize laureate for grassroots activism and most recently an entrepreneur, Yuyun Ismawati is a tireless campaigner for greener, healthier landscapes.
“I have always been curious and wondered what I could do to make things better,” says Ismawati, who is currently working to clean mercury-contaminated soils using renewable energy while earning a doctoral degree focused on the impact of mercury on child health at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany.
A new study has revealed that mercury pollution is more widespread across the world than previously thought, even among high-level ministers and delegates, as a new UN treaty struggles to get to grips with what experts call “an immediate threat to everyone.”
Evidence that the neurotoxic metal mercury poses a global health threat to all was underscored today in a new study analyzing the mercury body burdens among delegates of a global conference of the world’s first mercury treaty. The study detected mercury levels above health alert thresholds in over half of the global policy decision-makers tested at the first Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention.
Researchers concluded that even global policy-makers who are educated about mercury risks are not protected from mercury contamination. The findings revealed mercury in all participants and elevated mercury levels exceeding theUS EPA health advisory level of 1 ppm. Levels many times higher were identified in delegates from a number of regions. Mercury, while harmful to adults, causes the greatest damage to the developing nervous systems of fetuses in utero.