DOH Mimaropa holds training to manage heavy metal poisoning from 1996 Marcopper incident

DECADES after an incident at the Marcopper Mining Co. site in Marinduque caused mine tailings to pollute land and water used by residents living near the mine site, the Department of Health (DOH) in Mimaropa has conducted a seminar and training meant to study the extent of the heavy-metal poisoning (HMP) among the residents.

Mimaropa is composed of the provinces of Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.

“Because of the effects of mine tailings brought about by the 1996 Marcopper incident in Marinduque, the health and well-being of residents have been greatly affected, especially those residing near the mining area. We have to know how serious their condition is, if they really are contaminated or not,” Regional Director Eduardo C. Janairo said.

The training/seminar was held at the Sulo Riviera Hotel in Quezon City from July 25 to 27.

Called “Training on Identification Management and Referral of Patients with Metal Poisoning (HMP) for Medical Doctors and Public Health Nurses”, the training was attended by 24 health workers, including medical doctors, health nurses of Marinduque and Puerto Princesa City and two engineers of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources–Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB).

The training sought to help the attendees in the identification and management of patients with HMP, particularly from the provinces of Marinduque and Palawan.

DOH-Mimaropa held the training in collaboration with the toxicology department of the East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City.

“They have been neglected for decades now and yet we still don’t know who are the affected individuals needing immediate treatment. That is why we have initiated this training, so that we can properly identify and monitor these individuals and establish a surveillance and referral system that will provide them the health care they need,” Janairo said.

Janairo added a second part of the training will include a practicum on the treatment and management of HMP cases in Marinduque.

HMP is caused by the accumulation of certain metals in the body due to exposure through food, water, industrial chemicals or other sources. Undue amounts of zinc, copper, chromium, iron and manganese are harmful to the body.

HMP symptoms include confusion, numbness, nausea, vomiting and even coma. Long-term exposure to may cause headaches, weakness, tiredness, muscle and joint pain and constipation.

Marinduque and Palawan are among the provinces in Mimaropa where heavy copper- and mercury-mine tailings are found.

“It is time we provide a solution to this health concern not only in Marinduque and Palawan but in all areas of the country where mining activities exist so that we can prevent HMP contamination and protect the health of our countrymen,” Janairo said.

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