GÖTEBORG, Sweden, May 31, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Developing and transition countries stand to lose millions of dollars in earning potential every year due to mercury contamination, according to a new study. The analysis is the first peer-reviewed study to estimate economic losses due to diminishing IQ resulting from mercury contamination in these countries. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27594689)
The study evaluated mercury concentrations in hair samples from 236 participants from 17 sites in 15 countries, and estimated an annual loss of $77 - $130 million USD to these specific communities. All study participants lived near highly toxic mercury sources named in the Minamata Convention, the international treaty that obligates governments to take actions to minimize and eliminate mercury pollution to protect human health and the environment. On May 18th, the Convention reached the 50-country ratification milestone, and will become international law August 16th.
Researchers evidence annual financial losses due to mercury pollution range from $16,400 USD for a small community near an abandoned chlor-alkali and PVC plant in Albania, to $54.7 million USD in Douala, Cameroon, where mercury pollution originates from a variety of sources. An annual $699,000 USD in lost income burdens affected communities in the Cook Islands due to consumption of mercury-contaminated fish. According to UN Environment, coal fired power plants are a primary source of mercury in the atmosphere which deposits into the world's oceans where it accumulates in fish.
"Mercury pollution comes with a steep price tag," said Joe DiGangi, PhD, IPEN Science and Technical advisor, and a co-author of the study. "That's why the Minamata Convention needs to be ratified and fully implemented to prevent the tragic health impacts and lost earning potential in thousands of communities like the ones in this study. Mercury is a serious global threat to human health and this study shows that it also imposes additional burdens on the economy."
Mercury exposure damages the nervous system, kidneys, and cardiovascular system, and renders the most profound effects during fetal and early childhood development. Human exposure to mercury occurs primarily through the consumption of contaminated fish. Contaminated rice and direct exposure to mercury vapor are also pathways to exposure and damage.
Contact: LauraVyda@IPEN.org, +1 510-387-1739