Magazine article European Social Policy

Public Health : Experts Call for a Total Ban on Mercury

Magazine article European Social Policy

Public Health : Experts Call for a Total Ban on Mercury

Article excerpt

EU health and environment experts are demanding that all use of mercury, particularly in medical devices, be banned. A report (1), presented on 10 January at the European Parliament, again highlighted the toxic nature of mercury, to which one cause of human exposure is the eating of contaminated predatory fish. In water, mercury transforms into methylmercury, which is even more toxic and found largely in the underwater food chain. As with others before it, the report shows that the effects can be fatal, and have devastating consequences for the health ofafoetuses and new-born children, even in cases where mothers are exposed to very low doses.

"Mercury has long been recognised as a major source of toxicity in children causing reduced cognitive functioning, including reduced IQ,' indicated Gavin W. ten Tusscher, a Dutch paediatrician at the Department of Paediatrics and Neonatology, Westfries,aGasthuis, Hoorn in the Netherlands. The EU has introduced certain measures to restrict the use of mercury, but 'acceptable levels are not known.' Dr Tusscher explained that the foetus is particularly at risk because its developing brain is probably ten times more sensitive than that of an adult and much of the damage is neurologically irreversible.

'Even if we stopped all mercury production and spills and emissions today, our global food supply would still be contaminated for years to come,' noted Genon K. Jensen, Executive Director of the Health andaEnvironment Alliance while presenting the report to MEPs. …

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