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“Women and Mercury in ASGM” Impacts on Women’s Health and that of Future Generations

WECF co-organises side event on "Women and Mercury" at the Minamata Convention Dipcom in Japan, Thursday October 10

02.10.2013 |WICF

Photo Credit: Larr y C . Price/Pulitzer Center on Crisis R eporting, 2013

Minamata disease is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. Minamata disease was first discovered in Minamata city in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan, in 1956. It was caused by the release of methylmercury in the industrial wastewater. This highly toxic chemical bioaccumulated in shellfish and fish in Minamata Bay and the Shiranui Sea, which, when eaten by the local populace, resulted in mercury poisoning.

In many Artisanal Small Gold Mining (ASGM) areas, women perform the most toxic jobs since they do not require strength. These jobs include pouring the mercury into the ball-mills or mixing the mercury in panning, and burning the amalgam, often with their children or babies nearby. In some countries, women also carry the rocks from the mining sites to the processing plants.

Biomonitoring results from several ASGM countries show alarming concentrations of mercury in hair, urine and blood of children, women and men. There is a rapidly growing body of knowledge in this area, which has also revealed some symptoms similar to Minamata disease and its adverse effects and damage to the developing brain is a particular concern.

A side event co-organised by WECF will present and discuss lessons learned from Minamata, protecting women’s health from mercury exposure, best practices to reduce exposure to mercury in ASGM workers and communities. But it will also focus on awareness raising and regulatory measures governments can take to support, and the ways in which a successful and meaningful mercury treaty will reduce mercury exposure to women, children and future generations.

Download the invitation for the side event here

The side-event is co-hosted by the Ministry of Mines of Ethiopia, the Ministry of Health of Indonesia and will be chaired by the Co-chair of the Network of Women Ministers and Leaders for the Environment, H.E. Rejoice Mabudafhasi, Ministry of Water and Environmental Affairs of South Africa, co-organized with WECF International, IPEN, the Women’s Major Group at UNEP, and with the support of Danish Ministry of the Environment and the government of Switzerland.

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