For immediate release: Nairobi, 19th June 2017
Mercury Pollution Costs Billions in Lost Earning Potential in Kenya
New analysis finds significant mercury exposures near sources named in the Minamata Convention
Nairobi, 19th June 2017: Mining communities Kenya are losing more than 174 -342 billion shilling in earning potential every year due to mercury contamination, according to a new study published in The Journal of Environmental Management.1 The report is the first peer-reviewed analysis to estimate economic losses due to IQ damage from mercury pollution in Kenya and 14 other countries.
Centre for Environment Justice and Development (CEJAD) is a not for profit Non-Governmental Organization that focuses on promoting chemicals safety and sustainable development in Kenya contributed to the global study, collecting hair samples from participants living near small scale gold mines, a source specifically named in the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which obligates governments to take actions to minimize and eliminate mercury pollution to protect human health and the environment. Researchers collected samples in gold mining area of Masara, in Migori County. At peak mining times, more than 20,000 miners work in the area, using mercury to amalgamate gold and then dumping the wastes into rivers that serve as main food sources for the surrounding communities.
“This study gives us just a small sample of the extent of the damage that is happening throughout similar sites in Kenya. The high cost of mercury contamination should trigger actions to address pollution sources in Kenya,” said Mr. Griffins Ochieng, Programmes Coordinator, Centre for Environment Justice and Development. “The Minamata Convention needs to be ratified and fully implemented to prevent lost earning potential in Kenya and other communities in the country.”
Hair samples from 71 percent of participants from the area had mercury levels greater than 0.58 parts per million (ppm), the reference dose standard proposed in light of data suggesting harmful effects of mercury at low levels of exposure. Levels ranged .08 parts per million to 13.3 ppm.
“Mercury is a serious global threat to human health and this study shows that it also imposes additional burdens on the economy,” said Joe DiGangi, PhD, a senior advisor to IPEN, and co-author of the report. “That’s why it is critical to monitor sources of mercury pollution so that impacts on communities and the environment can be minimized and eliminated.”
Mercury exposure damages the nervous system, kidneys, and cardiovascular system. Developing organ systems, such as the fetal nervous system, are the most sensitive the toxic effects of
mercury, although nearly all organs are vulnerable. Human exposure to mercury occurs primarily
through the consumption of contaminated fish, although rice and direct exposure to mercury vapor
can also be sources.
1 Trasande L, DiGangi J, Evers D, Petrlik J, Buck D, Samanek J, Beeler B, Turnquist MA, Regan K (2016)
Economic implications of mercury exposure in the context of the global mercury treaty: hair mercury
levels and estimated lost economic productivity in selected developing countries, Journal of
Environmental Management 183:229 – 235, doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2016.08.058
Hair samples for the study were collected through a standardized hair sampling protocol by public
interest organizations in the IPEN network in participating countries. Centre for Environment Justice
and Development has been a member of IPEN since 2012 Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI)
Mercury Laboratory provided the analysis of the samples.
IPEN is a network of non-government organizations working in more than 100 countries to reduce and
eliminate the harm to human health and the environment from toxic chemicals. www.ipen.org
Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) is a nonprofit ecological research group whose mission is to
assess emerging threats to wildlife and ecosystems through collaborative research, and to use
scientific findings to advance environmental awareness and inform decision makers. www.briloon.org
CEJAD is a not for profit Non-Governmental Organization that focuses on promoting chemicals safety
and sustainable development in Kenya and is a participating organization of the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN).
For more information, please contact:
Griffins Ochieng, Tel: +254 726 931318 or