For tens of thousands of people in Western Kenya, gold mining is a way of making a living.
On informal mines across the region, women use mercury to bring out the gold. But a recent study conducted by a network of international charities has found that the chemical could be slowly killing them - and affecting the wider community.
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.
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.
Amongst other articles in the magazine, IPEN Co-Chair Olga Speranskaya writes about women leading the fight against the largest mining plant in Russia, the Tominsky MPP plant, owned by a Russian copper company. The company is currently destroying protected forests to clear land and build the mine. Activist scientists at the forefront of this movement describe a domino effect of environmental impacts that threaten to make the populated region uninhabitable.
A new video has been released by UN Environment at the 3rd Meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly featuring Minamata Disease survivor, Ms. Shinobu Sakamoto.
Shinobu calls for an end to pollution: "The fetal Minamata disease patients including myself are getting worse, year by year. Many people are still suffering and struggling from pollution. Today, I must repeat my message--Minamata disease is not over. Pollution must end."
The LVEMP II Civil Society Watch eBulletin is a monthly bulletin from the East African Sustainability Watch Network comprising: Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development (UCSD), Tanzania Coalition for Sustainable Development (TCSD) and Sustainable Environmental Development Watch Network (SusWatch Kenya).