Protecting human health, environment from mercury exposure stressed

Islamabad, July 17, 2016 (PPI-OT): Deputy Director Climate Change Ministry, Dr Zaigham Abbas, has urged the provincial governments and relevant stakeholders to play their part for phasing out use of mercury in any form to protect the human health and environment.

During his meeting with the Balochistan Environment Secretary and Balochistan Environmental Protection Agency (BEPA), Dr. Abbas highlighted that absence of a legal viable mechanism in the country was a major cause of unchecked hazardous mercury’s use in different forms including cosmetic products (whitening creams and soaps), dental filling, light bulbs, medical devices (thermometers and blood pressure-related medical apparatus), vaccines, batteries, according to a press release issued here on Sunday.

This was playing havoc with the human health and the overall environment, he maintained. The deputy director urged the Balochistan Environment Secretary and Balochistan Environmental Protection Agency (BEPA) to join the climate change ministry’s efforts for phasing out the use of mercury. He further told them that Pakistan is a signatory to the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

“To meet the Convention’s requirements, the climate change ministry has initiated a project titled “Development of Minamata Initial Assessment in Pakistan”, which aims for strengthening the baselines on mercury management in the country, developing national mercury inventories, piloting of sectoral action-plans as a follow-up of prioritization including indicative sampling and hammering out national mercury management plans,” he informed the Balochistan government officials.

Signed in year 2013 by delegates of 140 countries including Pakistan, the global Minamata Convention on Mercury is a United Nations-brokered treaty, which is designed to limit mercury use and emissions globally to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. Mercury is recognized as highly hazardous substance that also significantly affects neurological system of the humans and yields dangerous impacts on unborn children and infants.

Major highlights of the Minamata Convention include a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, the phase-out and phase-down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and the regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining. The Convention also addresses interim storage of mercury and its disposal once it becomes waste, sites contaminated by mercury as well as health issues.

Dr. Zaigham Abbas of the climate change ministry said that as a part of the ministry’s efforts for cutting down on use of the mercury, the ministry is holding meetings with relevant stakeholders including industries, health practitioners, provincial governments to make effective regulatory framework for efficacious implementation of the Minamata Convention in Pakistan.

During the meeting, Mr. Ali Baksh Bizenjo, Director Technical and Legal, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Quetta and Mr Ain Uddin Agha, Deputy Director, EPA, Baluchistan were present. Balochistan Environment Secretary, Dr Shoaib Ahmad Gola, assured his fullest support to the climate change ministry’s efforts for phasing out the mercury use in any form.

He pressed on need for nation-wide awareness of the health concerns resulting from exposure to mercury of vulnerable populations, especially women, children, and, through them, future generations and possible measures to control the exposure to the hazardous chemical. The environment secretary also suggested that the ministry to take measures to prevent the incorporation into assembled products of mercury-added products and its import.

He also stressed for the national strategy for the phase-down on the use of mercury and to introduce economical and environment-friendly alternatives in health sector especially for dental filling, thermometers and other medical apparatus.

The ministry official Dr Zaigham Abbas also held a detailed meeting with Mr. Ali Baksh Bizenjo, Director Technical and Legal, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Quetta and Mr Ain Uddin Agha, Deputy Director, EPA, Baluchistan. Engr Muhammad Khan, Deputy Director (Labs) conducted the detailed briefing of environmental laboratory including cold vapour atomic absorption for testing mercury (Hg),gas chromatography, spectrophotometer, BOD apparatus, COD apparatus, flow meters, ambient air detectors and waste water treatment apparatus.

Dr Abbas also met with Principal Bolan Medical College, Dr. Shabir Ahmed Lehri, in Quetta and briefed him about different facets of the Minamata Convention. He also told him about the ministry’s programme initiated to phase out the mercury at national level in collaboration with the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination.

He urged the college principal for educating the dental surgeons as well as dentists about negatives impacts of the mercury use and instead use mercury-free alternatives like composites and ceramic in dental filling. He also presented the awareness material including stickers and posters to different Balochistan government officials about adverse effects of the mercury use at different levels.

For more information, contact:
Muhammad Saleem
Deputy Director
Media and Communication
Ministry of Climate Change
Government of Pakistan
LG and RD Complex, G-5/2, ISLAMABAD
Ph: 051-9245565