While world has awakened to the harmful effects of mercury and many hospitals are now mercury free, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) today said that JK hospitals continue to use mercury-based medical products posing grave threat to human health and the environment.
Calling for ban on mercury-based medical products, President DAK Dr Nisar-ul-Hassan said these products expose already compromised patients and health care staff to dangerous effects of this toxic chemical. The use of mercury-containing thermometers and blood pressure apparatus and dental amalgams are major sources of mercury release into the atmosphere.
With no spill management technology and no sound waste management in place, these devices and dental filling materials pose the biggest threat to the health of the people. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2003, concluded that there is sufficient evidence of significant adverse impact from mercury to substitute mercury- based medical devices by safer alternatives.
Most of the health centers have replaced these dangerous implements with safer alternatives but JK looks the other way. Mercury is a notorious neurotoxic chemical that poses particular harm to developing fetuses and young children.
The substance damages central nervous system, thyroid, kidneys, lungs, immune system, eyes and skin and can result in neurological and behavioral disorders-with symptoms including tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular effects, headaches and cognitive and motor dysfunction.
Scientists recently concluded that children with higher levels of mercury are more likely to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). The greatest health risks from mercury arise from consumption of fish with high levels of methymercury particularly in members of vulnerable groups.
Also, mercury enters the food chain from agricultural products. 459 people died in Iraq after a grain treated with fungicide containing mercury was imported in 1971 and used to make flour. One of the worst industrial disasters in history was caused by mercury in Minamata city of Japan in 1950, where over 3000 people were affected. A global treaty, Minamata Convention, to which India is a signatory, was adopted in 2013 to eliminate mercury-based products with an aim to protect human health and the environment.