Environmental expert, Dr Idris Goji, on Thursday warned that exposure or the use of mercury and its products
could be dangerous to human health and the environment.
Goji, the Deputy Director in Charge of Chemical Management, Federal Ministry of Environment, gave the warning in Abuja during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
He said that mercury was largely present in holes associated with mining, found in the petroleum industry and also used in the medical profession.
The official said mercury was being used in the filling of teeth, saying that people have been carrying mercury in their mouths without them knowing the damaging effects on their health.
“The use of products with certain amount of mercury affects human development in unborn child as well as reduces fertility in both men and women.
“It could also delay in memory formation of unborn child that is why sometimes a child will be born and would spend over 10 years without speaking.
“ It can cause significant changes in lungs, kidney, nervous system, immune system and digestive system. Exposure to mercury causes neurological development problem in the unborn child.
“ It causes brain, nerve damages and heart diseases in the adult. Acute or chronic exposure causes neural disorder and even death.’’
According to him, some of the products that contain mercury include skin lightening creams and soaps and mercury found in thermometers, laboratory and medical equipment.
Others products, he said, included paints with mercury preservatives, batteries, light source, medical blood pressure gauges and electrical switches and relays with mercury.
Goji, however, said that that the recent Minamata Convention on mercury emphasised the need to ban new mercury mines and to phase-out existing mercury mines.
He said that the convention would also regulate mercury released from industrial equipment such as boilers, incinerators and coal powered station, among others.
In addition, he said that part of the target of the convention would be to place a ban on the manufacturing, importation and exportation of use of mercury products by 2020.
“Products such as lamps, batteries as well as pesticides, which reduce and eliminate the use of mercury in gold mining processing, should be banned by that time.
“We need to create awareness on the use of those products because they are known to contain mercury, which are dangerous to human health and life.’’
He, therefore, stressed that the ratification and domestication of the Minamata Convention on mercury in Nigeria would reduce the threats posed to environment and human health by the products.
He said that other benefits derivable from the convention included safeguarding the nation against being a dumping ground for industrial products containing mercury.
“It will also help to effectively monitor and enforce programmes on the control and importation of mercury products.
” The convention would enhance effective coordination of national implementation with real opportunities for the phase down/phase out of mercury.
” Establishment of an inventory to develop and implement a robust mercury preventive programme.
“This programme will include the identification and location, status of contamination, storage, handling and disposal to ensure non-effect on health and environment,’’ he said.
The official further said the convention would enable the country to develop a National Implementation Plan (NIP) to address holistically challenges of reducing and eliminating mercury.