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Tanzania: Doctors find use of mercury in artisanal & small scale gold mining has increased birth defects

"Unsafe mining blamed for children abnormalities", 30 October 2018

Unsafe artisanal and small scale gold mining in many areas across the Lake Zone has led to increased prevalence of anorectic malformations among many children with over 50 of them being referred for operations at the Bugando Medical Centre (BMC) every year. The ‘Daily News’ has details on the referrals of the children from other regional hospitals particularly Mara and Geita with known small scale mining operations coming for the specialised management called medically as Posterior Sagittal Anorectoplasty (PSARP). According to Dr William Kahabi, a General Practitioner at BMU and who has been actively engaged in attending to patients with anorectic malformations, many of the referred patients come from regions with mining activities. “Normally this malformation affects children whose parents are greatly exposed to dangerous metals like mercury and there is no solution in sight if this local mining practice will not change,” he cautioned...Anorectic malformation is a birth defect that effects the development of the anus while it also affects the reproductive system and its structures. Defects of the heart, kidneys, limbs, spine, and esophagus have also been associated with PSARP...In many countries including Tanzania, elemental mercury is used with the metal being mixed with gold-containing materials, forming a mercury-gold amalgam which is then heated, vapourising the mercury to obtain the gold. Experts however, have repeatedly cautioned the process can be very dangerous and lead to significant mercury exposure and health risks.