Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Mercury-vapour levels in Paramaribo are still extremely high

Mercury-vapour levels in Paramaribo are still extremely high and urgent measures are required to reduce them.

The downside of the enormous growth of gold mining in Suriname is well known and a high price is being paid. Last year Suriname Politics & Security - 04.06.12 reported that dangerously high concentrations of mercury vapour were detected in the Brazilian neighbourhoods of Paramaribo. The Bureau of Public Health (BOG) took action and closed a number of gold processing companies.

Despite this, however, the air borne mercury vapour surroundingParamaribo still exceeds international standards. According to an Anton de Kom University researcher, Dennis Wip,, the levels of mercury vapour around the capital are eight times higher than the internationally acceptable levels. Wip has been measuring theconcentration of air borne vapour and found concentrations of between 7 to 8 micrograms per cubic metre while the World Health Organisation's (WHO) acceptable level is 1 microgram per cubic metre.

Paramaribo, which is a small city of only 200,000 inhabitants, reportedly produces six times more mercury vapour per capita than one of the most contaminated cities in China. Wip says that it is now urgent to establish environmental legal standards so that companies and individuals in the mining sector have the necessary rules and guidelines. The symptoms of mercury poisoning that have been diagnosed include permanent damage to the nervous system, hallucinations, exaggerated emotional reactions, suicidal tendencies and the premature termination of pregnancies. Wip observes, however, that such cases are seldom related to excessive exposure to mercury or mercury vapour. “It would have been better to have taken action yesterday instead of today,” says the scientist. “Workers in the gold mining sector, but also individuals who have nothing to do with those activities, are being exposed to severe health threats.”

For more news and expert analysis about Suriname, please see Suriname Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

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