Pregnant women warned about eating sea foods
Pregnant and lactating women have been urged to be mindful of sea foods like shrimp, lobsters, and fishes like tuna.
This is because they could contain high levels of mercury and other heavy metals that can affect the cognitive development of babies.
Professor Richmond Aryeetey, Dean, University of Ghana School of Public Health, said a study by the University showed that presently, almost all Ghanaians were exposed to mercury washed into water bodies and picked up by fishes and sea foods consumed by many.
“Currently, there is no policy related to fish and mercury, but there is evidence that when small fishes consume methyl mercury, they get eaten by bigger fishes, which accumulate a lot more mercury. I will say that if you are a pregnant woman eat smaller fishes,” he said.
He told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that the high levels of mercury released into the environment, soil and river sediment without any containment efforts was worrying as children exposed to mercury had more serious nervous effect.
Prof Aryeetey said the damage caused by the introduction of heavy metals into the bodies of babies during pregnancies and breastfeeding at their developmental stages could not be reserved.
“Mercury is a metal, but when its burnt and released into the air and water, it is converted into a poisonous substance called methyl mercury, which is consumed my fish and other sea foods, the small fishes cannot take so much like the big fishes, which later eat up the small fishes,” he explained.
Prof. Aryeetey said annually, about 81 tons of mercury is released into the environment mainly through amalgamation and burning of the amalgam.
He said illegal mining activities released toxic chemicals, which posed health risks such as functional impairment or disability to miners and boarder societies in the long term.
“Heavy metals produced when the earth is excavated during mining affects different parts of the body like the nerve, lung, skin, kidney, brain, and the reproductive organs increasing the public risk to hypertension, heart attack and kidney failure,” he said.
Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in air, water, and soil.
Exposure to mercury, even small amounts, may cause serious health problems, and is a threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life.
Mercury may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive, and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.
Mercury is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern.
People are mainly exposed to methylmercury, an organic compound, when they eat fish and shellfish that contain the compound.
The inhalation of mercury vapour can produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive, and immune systems, lungs and kidneys, and may be fatal.
The inorganic salts of mercury are corrosive to the skin, eyes, and gastrointestinal tract, and may induce kidney toxicity if ingested.
Neurological and behavioral disorders may be observed after inhalation, ingestion, or dermal exposure of different mercury compounds.
Symptoms include tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular effects, headaches and cognitive and motor dysfunction.