Toxicity of mercury

Sajeela Karim
Islamabad

Mercury is naturally occurring element found in air, water and soil which enters the environment due to both natural processes as well as anthropogenic activities. The element is found in different organic and inorganic forms: Inorganic mercury compounds are used in manufacturing processes more extensively in batteries while the organic mercury compounds are used as fungicides and pharmaceutical agents as well as in cosmetics. The heavy silvery-white metal can be intake through contaminated drinking water and exposure to mercury through medical treatment. Major exposure to mercury is through intake of food.
In Pakistan, mercury is being released into environment through extensive use of mercury compounds as well as through the use of certain material with traces of mercury. It affects lungs, kidney, brain and skin severely. The symptoms of mercury include poisoning fatigue, depression and headache. Mercury is mainly excreted through urine and faeces. The element in Pakistan enters streams through industrial effluents and combined with soil. Water exposed to mercury cause change in its parameters like TDS, PH and hardness making water unfit for use combination of mercury with soil cause decrease in plant growth due to heavy metal accumulation. Textile and glass industries are found to be major mercury effluents also solid waste disposable sites in all areas of provinces of Pakistan. The sources contributing to higher mercury concentration in municipal solid waste is due to the waste batteries cell, fluorescent lamps used these days due to energy crises.
The mercury waste management can improve the quality of life and conserve aquatic resources by mercury releases to environment through ensuring provision for mercury alternatives at all levels at an affordable cost and in an equitable, efficient and sustainable manner. The following suggestion can help overcome the negative effects of mercury on public health: Coordinate with advanced research laboratories to study the health impacts of mercury, Replace mercury products with mercury alternatives in future, Conduct a study for most economical and environmental friendly mercury alternatives, Conduct a study for the recovery/recycling of mercury from mercury waste and mercury products, Conduct a study on the determination of methyl mercury in rivers, sea and all types of fish, Ensure protection and safety of all people working/using mercury for different purposes, Encourage community participation and empowerment in planning, implementation, monitoring and operation for safe disposal of mercury.

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