EPA calls for public awareness on Minamata Convention

Accra� Dr Sam Adu-Kumi, Director, Chemicals Control and Management Centre/Registrar of Pesticides, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday called for public education on the Minamata Convention on Mercury, to protect the health of the people.

Awareness and education of the public and sensitisation of decision makers is key for the successful implementation of the Minamata Convention in Ghana, DrAdu-Kumi stated at a Stakeholder Engagement Workshop for the Health Sector on the Minamata Convention in Accra.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury.

The Convention, which was adopted by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries held in Minamata and Kumamoto, Japan, in 2013, focuses on limiting and ultimate phasing-out of mercury and mercury related/containing products from all sectors.

The objective of the Convention is to protect human health and the environment from the anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.

It prohibits a range of products containing mercury, including batteries, compact fluorescent lamps, switches and relays, soaps and cosmetics, thermometers, and blood pressure devices.

Also prohibited are vaccines containing mercury, as well as dental fillings, which use mercury amalgam.

DrAdu-Kumi said Mercury was a very poisonous substance, which when ingested or inhaled might produce significant adverse neurological and other health effects such as digestive and immune system dysfunction, diseases of the lungs, kidney, skin and the eyes.

He said the harmful effects of mercury on vulnerable populations, particularly unborn children, children, and women of child-bearing age (especially pregnant women) were of particular concern.

He said mercury could persist in the environment, bio- accumulate through the food web and pose a risk of causing adverse effect to human health and the environment.

Ghana ratified the Convention in 2017 and had asked for extension of the deadline to phase out/down mercury uses from the health and other sectors to 2025, which had been granted.

The workshop was on the theme; Minamata Convention: Roles and Responsibilities of Ghana’s health sector.

It was organised by the United Nations Development Programme – Global Environment Facility (UNDP-GEF), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH), the Ghana Health Service (GHS), and in partnership with Ecological Restorations, to sensitise and raise awareness among relevant stakeholders on the Minamata Convention.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) categorises Mercury as a “global threat to human and environmental health” because of its harmful effects on human health and environmental ecosystems.

DrAdu-Kumi said although mercury was a naturally occurring element, human activities (mainly industrial sources- the combustion of fossil fuels, mining, smelting, waste combustion) had increased the amount of mercury accumulated into the atmosphere and the natural environment as a whole.

He noted that the biggest mercury releases come from coal-fired power stations and usage of mercury to separate gold ore-bearing rock, mainly Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASGM).

He said in the 2010 global inventory conducted by the UNEP, ASGM was responsible for the major source of mercury emitted into the atmosphere at 727 tonnes per year.

He said dental amalgamation, cement production and the production of iron were other anthropogenic activities that account for large sources of global emissions of mercury into the air.

Dr Edith Clarke, a former Project Director, GHS, said the UNDP, in collaboration with the MoH and GHS, with funding from the GEF through the Medical Waste Management project, had initiated a mercury phase out approach in five model facilities.

The facilities were the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital; the Eastern Regional Hospital in Koforidua; the Trauma and Specialist Hospital, Winneba, OkomfoAnokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi; and the Tegbi Health Center, Tegbi, Volta Region.

She said in all five facilities about 225 non-mercury containing thermometers and 218 BP apparatus have been supplied to replace mercury containing ones.

Dr Carl Osei, Director, UNDP – GEF Medical Waste Project, Minamata Convention Ghana, called for a national action plan for the implementation of the Minamata Convention.

DrCrentsil Kofi Bempah, Technical Expert for the Minamata Initial Assessment (MIA), presented a report on the current estimated mercury releases from the health sector and populations at risk.

Source: Ghana News Agency