By Olimatou Coker
The Minister Of Environment , Climate Change and Natural Resources Lamin Dibba has stated that the government of The Gambia through his ministry and the Ministry of Health will take necessary measures to reduce and where feasible , eliminate the risk of skin diseases associated with hazardous skin bleaching substances .
He said the government recognises the health hazards associated with skin lightening creams, some of which contain mercury and it is understood that mercury salts inhibit the formation of Melanin in the skin and results to a lighter skin tone, which exposes the skin to serious health problems.
Minister Dibba made these remarks at a local hotel in Senegambia during the National Validation of Mercury Inventory Report under the “Development of Minamata Convention on Mercury Initial Assessment in Africa (The Gambia)” .
Minister Dibba added that his Ministry will also encourage the general public to build capacity and raise awareness on the dangers associated with products containing mercury and shift to mercury free alternative.
“This would include, for example, shifting from medical mercury thermometers, barometers, and other equipment to digital and mercury free devices. It also includes shifting from fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, cosmetics and other products that contain mercury to mercury free alternative,” he added.
For his part, Momodou Jama Suwareh, executive director of NEA, said the objective is to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic mercury pollution.
He also said mercury is recognized globally as a substance producing significant adverse neurological and other health effects with particular concerns expressed about its harmful effects on unborn children and infants.
According to Suwareh, the pollution was traced to the discharge of effluents from caisson factory, manufacturing acetaldehyde and vinylchloride. “The effluent accumulated as dinmethyl mercury in the sediment in the bay, a toxic organic mercurial compound ingested by marine organisms. Between 1953 and 1960, 43 persons died and many more were incapacitated by minamata disease.”
He said the damage was in twofold, direct poisoning of the nervous system and similar teratogenic effect, the toxin being able to cross the parental barrier following ingestion by the mother .
He said government recognises the importance of sound chemicals management and was among the first signatories to the Minamata Convention on Mercury in 2013 and also among the first fifty countries that have ratified the convention.