DEPARTMENT of Health (DOH)-Mimaropa (Oriental/Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) on October 2 started its rapid health-risk assessment for heavy metal poisoning among residents of Marcopper-affected areas in Boac, Marinduque.
“More than half of Marinduque Barangay Health Workers are now trained to identify, assess and perform immediate health-risk assessment to residents in areas affected by mine tailings. They can provide necessary management and treatment of individuals affected with heavy-metal poisoning,” Regional Director Eduardo C. Janairo said during a visit to Barangay Tabique in Boac, Marinduque on October 3.
Janairo explained that among the illnesses that affect the residents are skin diseases, diarrhea, leukemia and kidney problems.
“We can now provide toxicology test to these affected individuals to prove if high levels of heavy metals are present in their blood,” he said.
As of October 3 there were 35 patients interviewed from the barangays of Tabique, Lupac, Catubigan, Mainit and Balimbing in Boac, Marinduque. Of these, three patients were found positive for lead; eight patients for cadmium; five for mercury; and three for nickel poisoning.
According to Janairo, the laboratory results of these patients were provided by the Toxicology Department of the East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC).
The 35 patients were brought to the Dr. Damian Reyes Provincial Hospital for further diagnosis by toxicologists from the EAMC with the aid of the telemedicine system.
Residents in mined-out areas are exposed daily to various sources of toxic chemicals, from air contaminants, and they even ingest contaminated sea food, vegetables, fruits and other food products from contaminated seas and soils.
Areas that are heavily silted with mine tailings from Marcopper are Calancan Bay, Makulapnit and Boac River.
On March 24, 1996, 2 million to 3 million tons of Marcopper mine waste was spilled to the Boac River, inundating villages and killing marine life. It caused flashfloods, and 20 out of 60 barangays were evacuated with approximately 20,000 people affected.