Friday, March 15, 2013

Chemical Limitations Saving Lives

Gold mining is one of the most lucrative parts of mining industry, only led by the oil industry. The process of mining of gold, locating the rich veins containing the ore, and separating the pure element from it's ore is simple, yet dangerous. It is so simple, that often impoverished and uneducated people of Africa take it upon themselves to mine and separate the gold themselves. Although there are inherent dangers with the creation of hazardous and impromptu mines such as the ones used by the Africans, the more imminent danger comes from the separation of gold from the ore, via a process known as amalgamation. This involves separating the gold from the ore with mercury, a dangerous element. When constantly exposed to mercury, permanent central nervous system damage, as well as, damage to major organs can occur. In the African countries, children complete amalgamation by rubbing the impure gold with the mercury between their hands, then burning it off in a metal pan. Said process exposes the children to mercury, and the harmful gases that are released when the mercury is burned. Furthermore, the Human Watch Rights group has led legislation and a movement known as the "Mercury Treaty", the purpose of which is to limit the accessibility and exposure of children to mercury. This will decrease birth defects (another side effect of mercury exposure) and save lives. The treaty also supports the testing of children and other adults to prevent and intervene with the mercury poisoning. I agree with this movement because the protection of our children is of the utmost importance, plus every government needs to recognize the dangers posed by mercury exposure and poisoning.

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