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Ferguson wants study on heavy metals exposure

Published:Saturday | March 21, 2015 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Dr Fenton Ferguson, minister of health.

Health Minister Fenton Ferguson has called for a comprehensive study to determine the extent to which the Jamaican population might have been, or is being exposed, to potentially toxic chemicals, including, and especially heavy metals such as asbestos and mercury, as a matter of priority.

"These chemicals are known to have adverse effects on

health, resulting from prolonged exposure. The risk, especially, where asbestos is concerned, is that many times, we do not even realise that the substance is present in our homes and workplaces," he told Thursday's launch of the National Quick Start Programme Trust Fund Project at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, St Andrew.

"This is because it (asbestos) has been used in many domestic products such as adhesives, plastics, and even crayons. It was also used in construction products such as paints, ceilings, and floor tiles," the health minister advised.

Even though there has been a significant decline in the use of asbestos for decades, it can remain undetected for years and is known to cause health issues such as rare cancers and lung problems. Research has shown that exposure to mercury is just as dangerous and can be toxic to the lungs, nervous system, and kidneys.

serious matter

"We will not fail the Jamaican people, and so we have to take this matter seriously," the health minister assured, citing the need for the drafting of a compre-hensive waste-management policy, as a matter of priority."

It is against this background that Ferguson called for a comprehensive waste-manage-ment policy. "Measures must, therefore, be put in place to prevent the health risks associated with exposure to hazardous waste and sound environmental management polices. We take this charge seriously," he declared.