Impacts Of Mecury On Human Health And The Environment

In our efforts as human beings to improve our standard of living, we consequently increase our industrial activities. These activities release pollutants into our environment.One of these pollutants that are toxic to human health and the environment is mercury.

Mercury is an extremely poisonous chemical element with symbol Hg. Though it can be changed into solid or gas at suitable temperature, it is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature. In its physical state, mercury appears appealing in shiny silver-white form and it conducts electricity due to its very high surface tension.

Sources

Mercury exists naturally through volcanic activity, weathering of rocks, that is, the normal breakdown of minerals in rocks,and water movement. It also occurs through human activities such asartisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM); a prevalent mining process in Nigeria, coal-fired power plants, industrial fugitive emissions, oil and gas processing industry and cement production. These are major activities thatemitmercury into the atmosphere and release it into soil and waterthereby causing environmental pollution in Nigeria.

Mercury can be used to make scientific instruments such as thermometers and barometers. Also, because of its ability to conduct electricity, it is used in electric switches and as relays in equipment. The vapor in mercury is used in streetlights and fluorescent lamps.  Mercury readily combines with other metals like gold, zinc and silver to form alloys; also called amalgams. These amalgams are used to create dental filings, prolong the life of dry battery cells made with zinc and used to help extract gold from its ore.

Other sources of mercury includeskin-lightening products, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, industrial boilers,agricultural fertilizers, waste disposal and incineration.

 

Health Impacts   

Mercury is a major public health concern because it is inimical to human health.  Exposure to the toxic element and its compound can cause damage to the brain, disrupt the nervous system and affect the lungs, kidneys and eyes. It also results in allergic reactions such as headaches, tiredness and skin rashes. Even in small amounts, mercury impacts the reproductive organs negatively by causing sperm damage, birth defects and miscarriages.

Nearly all fish and shell fish contain traces of mercury but some have higher concentration that may be harmful to pregnant women; however, for dietary purpose, pregnant women can still eat fish and shell fish that are low in mercury.

Additionally, the continuous use of skin lightening products that contain mercury poses a high health risk to people who use them. The accumulation of mercury in the body through the skin can damage the liver and kidney.

Environmental Impacts   

Mercury and its compound are non-biodegradable. So, they persist in the environment for an extended period killing important microorganisms in the environment.

Mercury is significantly harmful due to its ability for long-range transportation. It can travel globally through air, soil and water bodies.

Mercury and its compounds also have adverse impact on the environment as they bio-accumulate in the ecosystem. Mercury accumulates in organisms through different transmission pathways like the food chain.

 

Role Of Nigerian Government 

Nigerian government through the Federal Ministry of Environment is involved in a variety of activities to phase out mercury. These include promoting use of clean energy in industrial activities, enforcing the proper use and disposal of mercury containing products,discouraging the use of mercury in gold mining, developing laws to protect the health of Nigerian citizens and finding lasting alternatives to the use of mercury containing products.

In order to phase out mercury, Nigeria became a signatory to the Minamata convention on mercury; a global environment treaty, on 10th October, 2013.  The convention is aimed at promoting the “use of alternatives and Best Available Techniques (BAT) and Best Environmental Practices (BEP) across a wide range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted.”  This, in the end, will help protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and its compound.

The government in a series of strategic plans and with support from Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is working assiduously to implement the Minamata Convention Initial Assessment (MIA) project. This will assist Nigeria to assess its institutional capability, identify gaps in policy and legislative framework, identify intervention sources and raise awareness among relevant stakeholders. The success of the MIA will serve as a basis for the country to ratify the Minamata convention requirements.

To further the course of raising awareness among Nigerian citizens, the Federal Ministry of Environment at a recent workshop in Lagos engaged the media and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the Minamata convention on mercury. The awareness raising workshop was to enlighten participants on the Minamata convention, and develop strategic and realistic tactics to disseminate information on mercuryto the populace.

The role of the media and NGOs cannot be over-stressed as the sector is the mouthpiece of the people, if fierce awareness is raisedsuch as it was done with NAFDAC number on products during Professor Dora Akunyili’s tenure at the agency whereby illiterates and educated people became aware of the importance of NAFDAC’s certification on a product, Nigeria is on a good path to fulfill its obligation to the ratification of the Minamata convention while also contributing to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals 3, 6, 9 and 14.

 

Ms Damilola Adeoye

Program officer,

Centre For 21st Century Issues

 

 

 

 

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Keynote address by Mr. Peter Carter The British Deputy High Commissioner at the Legislative Retreat on climate change in Lagos on 6th June 2013

Keynote address by British Deputy High Commissioner, Mr. Petre Carterr
Legislative Retreat On Climate Change in Lagos State

 KEYNOTE ADDRESS DELIVERED BY MR. PETER CARTER, THE BRITISH DEPUTY HIGH COMMISSIONER AT THE LEGISLATIVE RETREAT ON CLIMATE CHANGE IN LAGOS STATE ORGANIZED BY POLICY ADVOCACY PARTNERSHIP IN LAGOS STATE . “RESHAPING GOVERNANCE AND LEGAL STRUCTURE OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN LAGOS STATE”

It’s a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to address you all today. I am reassured to know that such a rich pool of experts is coming together here in Lagos to address this critical issue. You have a lot of work ahead of you, and I will therefore try to keep my comments short and leave you as much as time as possible to get on with your important work.

IMPORTANCE OF CLIMATE CHANGE

I don’t need to tell you that climate change whatever we do, it is going to affect the lives of our children even more. The actions we take now will determine how much. By taking immediate, real and positive steps, and by enjoining others to take action with us, we can limit those effects.

Climate change is not just a challenge for Lagos, or Nigeria, or the UK. It’s something which faces the whole world. It is for that reason that we need to take action, not just locally but globally. We need to work together- NGOs researchers, businesses, state governments, federal governments and countries, to find solutions and agree common goals. Working together is the only way that we will mitigate the effects of climate change.

UK ACTIONS

The British Government is trying to do its bit. There, there are difficult decisions to be made, and the present economic environment only makes them harder. But we remain committed to making effective changes, and raising awareness about the way people think about climate and energy issues.

We are committed to reducing emissions by at least 30% by 2020. We are also leading the way in supporting the poorest countries deal with the consequences of climate change. At CoP 18 the UK supported the EU in making clear financial commitment to the international climate fund.

We acknowledge that adaptation efforts should include managing the risks of loss and damage. By our significant commitments of international climate finance we are helping countries adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

We have also supported development of crops, crops that will help increase the resilience of countries and communities. These include drought tolerant varieties of maize and flood resistant varieties of rice we are optimistic that locally our investments will yield positive results.

Closer home, the British High Commission in Abuja has appointed a new officer with responsibility for science, innovation and climate change. This new post will have specific responsibility for developing scientific and academic links between Nigeria and the U.K to find and implement solutions to local challenges including on climate change and renewable energy.

NIGERIA AND UK TOGETHER

I’m pleased to say that Nigeria and Lagos in particular is taking positive approach towards addressing the issue of climate change. The UK is keen to work with you in the public and private sectors,in addressing the local challenges faced due to climate change. As you may know, UK Trade and Investment took a Nigerian delegation to attend the Green Technology Road Show in London recently, where forward –looking Nigerian businesses were able to increase their knowledge capacity and pursue partnerships. The opportunities are there to make green Lagos a thriving part of your economic emergence. The UK is ready to help you find partners to develop those opportunities.

We are engaged in discussions with the honorable commissioner for energy and minerals in particular on renewable energy such as solar to power street lamps, energy from waste and Hydro- power. I took forward to pursuing that to develop our common interests. E are not just collaborating on trade. The UK is currently in discussion with the energy commission of Nigeria to develop a sophisticated carbon supply and demand forecasting tool for Nigeria. This tool has been developed to British Government and successfully implemented in other countries. Once in place, it will give Nigeria better evidence supporting targeted actions to improve emissions.

NIGERIA ON THE GLOBAL STAGE

I’ve said that Nigeria is taking positive steps. But Nigeria should just content itself with taking actions at home. This is a powerful country, with one of the strongest voices in Africa. The evidence you develop here and the practices that you adopt should be shared with other African countries. On the global stage, you have an important role to play in ensuring that Africa presents itself as a pro-active partner in the fight to mitigate the effects of Climate change.

And Lagos state is at the forefront of all this, leading the way as it does in so many areas of Nigerian public life. Your focus today and more generally on the governance and legal structure of climate change in this state goes to the hearth of the issue. Without a legislative infrastructure and effective governance in place, achieving real change in economic models and public and privatebehavior become significantly more difficult. But I have every confidence in your ability to produce results that will not only meet Lagos’s needs but provide a template for others to adopt across Nigeria.

WRAP UP

Climate change presents us with many challenges, requiring different but complementing solutions. The forward thinking innovative approach you are taking in Lagos is an important step towards developing those solutions. I hope you have a successful event, and I look forward to a continued partnership between Nigeria and the UK in the months and years to come.