Feb 27, 2015, 11:22 AM
The NEA on behalf of the Gambia Government is in the process of implementing the Minamata Convention on the initial assessment of mercury.
In Africa, the Gambia Government is one of the countries that have signed the convention and are now in the process of ratifying it.
The project aimed at facilitating the ratification and early implementation of the Minamata Convention by providing key stakeholders in participating countries with the scientific and technical knowledge and tool needed for the purpose.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Pa Ousman Jarju, Minister of Environment, Climate, Water, Forestry, Park and Wildlife, said “the chemical revolution of the last century has changed our lives and has greatly contributed to the wellbeing of humanity hence we have many reasons to be grateful to the chemical industry worldwide for its contribution in the production of wide range of chemical products.”
Without chemicals, he noted, it could not have been possible to feed our growing population, to find cure for diseases and to discover new materials that would make our lives easier, safer and more productive.
“Chemicals are now part of our daily existence,” he said, adding that they contribute in many ways to sustainable development.
However, the minister said, the unsound management of chemical may negatively affect human health and the environment.
“If not handled according to established norms and procedures, chemical can cause toxic reaction when they are released in the open air,” he said, adding that they can stay in the environment for years and travel thousands of kilometers from where they are used, thus threatening people’s lives and organisms in different places.
He also said they may have ecological consequences that were never anticipated or intended, such as environmental contamination, which affects waterways and wildlife.
“It is therefore important to manage chemicals in a safe and responsible manner so that they do not adversely affect human health and the environment,” the environment minister said.
The Minamata convention on mercury is a major international development in controlling the harmful effects of mercury pollution.
It is out to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emission and release of mercury and mercury compounds, Minister Jarju said, adding that the Gambia Government recognizes the importance of sound chemicals and as a result had signed the Minamata convention on mercury.
He commended President Yahya Jammeh, “who is highly concerned about the health of the population and has prohibited the act of skin bleaching in the civil service”.
Skin bleaching products are known to contain mercury, and mercury salt inhabits the formation of melanin in the skin and result in a lighter skin tone, according to research findings.
For her part, the Director of NEA, Ndey Sireng Bakurin, said the Gambia Government has been actively involved in the entire preparatory process of the Minamata convention on mercury.
Mercury like other heavy metals are released into the environment through industrial processes, trade and mineral extraction, she said, adding that in The Gambia, mercury products can be found at hospitals, dentistry, cosmetics and soap among others.
Due to its unique chemical properties, mercury has been used in a wide rang of products over the years, but in The Gambia most of it is used in electrical and electronic devise, switches, measuring and control equipment such as thermometers, energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs, batteries and dental amalgam.