News / Africa

Study Names Cameroon as Hotspot for Mercury Contamination

Ntaryike Divine Jr.
Soaring costs of meat, currently selling at US$6 per kg across Cameroon, have forced up to 20 million consumers to rely on low-priced fish for balanced diets.

But a scientific probe has unveiled bad news for those who depend on the relatively cheaper protein source. Its findings reveal that fish caught in Cameroonian waters contain extremely high concentrations of mercury, a chemical element and metal harmful to human health. 

The survey, titled Global Mercury Hotspots was conducted between May and June last year.  It’s findings were just recently made public.  The study measured the amount of ingested mercury in a sample population on the outskirts of Cameroon’s largest city and industrial hub, Douala. 

According to the findings, residents of the city are highly exposed to contamination by the metal.

Medics say humans are often exposed to its most poisonous form, methylmercury,  by consuming fish living in polluted waters.  Ingestion of the contaminated food can destroy the human immune and nervous systems, and damage developing embryos. 

The research was jointly manned by experts from the Biodiversity Research Institute, the International POP Elimination Network and the Center for Research and Education for Development. 

Nineteen trial subjects from two predominant fishing communities just outside of Douala – Youpwe and Takele - offered hair samples for analysis. Dr Gilbert Kuepouo, Coordinator at the Center for Research and Education for Development says results of the analyses conducted at a laboratory in the northeastern US state of Maine revealed disturbing methylmercury traces in the trial subjects.

He says 17 of the hair samples showed worrying mercury contamination levels way above WHO limits of one microgram of mercury per kilogram of human body mass.  Kuepouo says they found concentrations ranging from 2.8 to 3.8 micrograms per kilogram [or parts per million].  He adds that even more disturbing were two others who displayed exceedingly elevated levels surpassing 540 micrograms

Mercury occurs naturally in geological deposits, volcanoes, and also as an introduced contaminant in the environment from metal processing, gold mining, coal incineration and hospital waste.  It is easily carried over vast distances in the atmosphere by wind and then deposited on land and water sources.

Some of the mercury that falls from the air onto water sources is converted by marine bacteria into methylmercury.   Fish devour the microscopic animals called zooplanktons, who have consumed the substance.  At each stage in the aquatic food chain, the concentration of methylmercury,  which is much more easily absorbed than is excreted, is magnified.

Dr Jude Attah, the co-author of the report, says "Our conclusion is that the main source of contamination is fish, though there are other sources like some skin-lightening lotions, clay and artificial teeth workshops. The Wouri estuary where most of the fishing off Douala is done is highly polluted with mercury from the various industries around."

The researchers have recommended urgent measures to reduce mercury emissions in Douala, where more and more people depend on fish for proteins.

They are urging governments in the region to immediately enact legislation to encourage mercury-polluting industries to obtain equipment to clean up contaminated environment.  They also want a limit on imports of raw materials containing mercury and the inspection of industrial and hospital garbage before disposal. 

Since 2009, the United Nations Environment Program, UNEP has been pushing for a negotiated global pact to progressively phase out and eventually eliminate mercury emissions worldwide.  The initiative is due to be completed this year.  It will likely include a legally binding treaty which will stand as a basis for national laws and help to reduce emissions worldwide.

Listen to report on mercury contamination in Cameroon
Listen to report on mercury contamination in Camerooni
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More