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Mercury is one of the most dangerous chemicals for public health. Know what their health consequences are
Mining has negative consequences on the environment, but this damage increases, even more, when it is done illegally. Since, by not complying with the standards and regulations required, the care that is taken of the results in relation to the profits that are generated is even smaller.
Leer en español: ¿Sabe cuáles son las consecuencias de la minería ilegal en la salud?
In one of the documents published by the WHO, called artisanal or small-scale gold mining and health, an analysis is carried out on this type of mining, emphasizing that which is illegal and its consequences on public health. This type of activity has chemical, biological, biomechanical, physical and psychosocial risks.
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What are the risks and the consequences?
1. Chemicals: Among the chemicals used to extract gold, are mercury and cyanide. Both have a strong environmental impact and also the workers' health, who are constantly exposed to them by not taking the necessary precautions, is affected.
Many of the processes in which mercury is used exceed the temperatures that are legal and end up releasing toxic vapors that disperse through the air. These processes are usually carried out in populated areas, so workers and the people who live there are constantly exposed to inhaling such waste.
Inhalation can generate, from irritation in the respiratory tract and difficulty in breathing to chemical pneumonitis and pulmonary edema. In addition, exposures to this chemical usually generate a neurological and autoimmune deterioration, and in some cases may also manifest neuropsychiatric symptoms.
2. Biological: Illegal mining does not have a well-thought infrastructure in terms of the water and sanitation system. So water, in the vast majority of cases, is usually contaminated. This water is still used in the same way by the communities that inhabit the zones and, in this way, the propagations of diseases are more regular. Among these diseases are tuberculosis and even HIV/AIDS.
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3. Biomechanics and physicists: These risks are due to the long hours of work without rest that workers have, the unsafe or damaged work equipment and the positions they acquire due to the nature of the activity they perform. This generates musculoskeletal problems, in addition to a worker's over-exertion and the risk of being injured by a collapse or any other failure.
This type of damage can also be caused by the environment generated by work, such as constant noise that, in addition to the inconvenience, can cause hearing problems. It can also cause hypertension, heart disease, and stress.
4. Psychosocial: Chemical materials such as mercury can generate depression, memory problems, irritability, shyness, and even anorexia. In addition, the work in the mining environment does not guarantee a quality of life, nor is there a concern for the worker, for his personal life and his achievements outside of work.
The stress that this type of work causes, leads, in most cases, to the miners resorting to alcohol in excess and the recurrent use of drugs. This results in an attitude of violence towards colleagues or family, but this violence can also be generated by difficult working conditions.
Finally, the little payment they receive despite the strenuous work is reflected in the nutritional deficiencies that workers and their families have.
LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero
Translated from "¿Sabe cuáles son las consecuencias de la minería ilegal en la salud? "