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Over 850,000 Nigerians in 12 states at risk of poisoning from mercury use

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Christian Fernsby ▼ | May 21, 2019
In Nigeria, not less than 850,690 people are at risk of mercury poisoning.
Africa   Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna, Kwara, Borno, Kaduna, Jigawa, and Yobe States
In at least 12 Nigerian States, particularly Niger, Osun and Zamfara, artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is one of their key source of income generation; however, ASGM is also the main source of the largest release of mercury emissions around the world.

The others are Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna, Kwara, Borno, Kaduna, Jigawa, and Yobe States and Federal Capital Territory.

Dr Edwin Edeh, National Consultant Public Health and Environment (PHE) of World Health Organization (WHO) pointed out that 'mercury, which is widely used to extract gold in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM); is a lethal chemical', at a one-day health sensitization programme to flag-off field assessments of ASGM activities in Nigeria.

The sensitization programme was launched in Minna, Niger State.

The assessment will be used by the country to develop a National Action Plan (NAP), which clearly identifies public health implications of the mining activities in gold mining communities and countrywide and strategies for actions needed to reduce the public health impact.

In his remarks, Mr Fatai Olarenwaju, of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) noted that one important component of the NAP will be that of empowering local communities for action.

'There is a need to sensitize mining communities in order to increase their awareness and enable them to take local action on minimizing the effects of mercury on human health', he reiterated.

WHO is supporting FMOH to conduct the assessment in two states, namely, Niger and Osun in collaboration the ministries of Environment as well as Mines and Steel Development.

Others are Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Swiss Tropical Institute.