Alarming toxicity of heavy metals

Hira Mumtaz

Heavy metals in the environment, especially lead or arsenic, are leading to a number of health hazards in Pakistan. A cloth dying factory regularly dumps chemicals into the sea along with all sorts of garbage that is poisoning marine life and serving as a danger to the environment. At Agha Khan University, a seminar was conducted in which many environmentalists and experts warned as to how heavy metals’ degradation is impacting human health.
Policymakers and environmental health experts say that greater awareness, new legislation and strict implementation of policies and standards is required to improve the situation. Arsenic and many of its compounds are especially potent poisons. The dominant basis of arsenic poisoning is spread through the ground water that naturally contains high concentrations of arsenic. Arsenic poisoning is dangerous as it targets all cells and organs of the body and includes complications such as cancer of the liver, lungs, kidneys, bladder and other cardiovascular diseases and even diabetes.
Dr. Zafar Fatmi said that groundwater is affected by chemical agents and that a serious issue of drinking water is arising as Arsenic is one of the chemicals widely present in underground water along the River Indus. There is a direct link to the levels of arsenic present in some wells within close proximity of the River Indus to skin lesions and other medical complications. The wells need to be identified and marked with colours, such as red for unsafe and green for safe. He said that people should use safe wells for drinking water and use contaminated wells for other needs such as washing clothes. Dr.Kadir, while speaking on the effects of lead on prenatals in Pakistan, said that lead present in the maternal bones was transferred to the fetus or child leading to health complications.
Mercury is known to be a toxic material with adverse effects on the body as claimed by so many researchers and always projected a negative aspect of this element. It is true that it may cause several problems when it exceeds the safe limit but along with its negative image, mercury and its compounds used in dental practice may be responsible for release of mercury into oral cavity. Its organic compounds cause brain and liver damage thus increasing brain and liver diseases.
Four provinces of Pakistan have been inspected for the first time during present study for mercury exposure to environment. In short, these heavy metals are causing diseases at very high rate; so important steps should be taken to lessen their toxicity and there alternates should be found or they should be managed in such a way that they become less toxic.
—Islamabad

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