Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mercury exposure has experts worried

Mercury exposure has experts worried

Mercury exposure has experts worried

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

THE World Health Organization has dismissed fears that people have been poisoned by mercury, despite scientific confirmation that the mercury readings from the waste are up to 20,000 times higher than safety standards.

Toxic metals experts and activists are worried that an all-clear has come too early.

Tests carried out by the National Institute for Minamata Disease on waste at the dump site revealed extraordinarily high levels of inorganic mercury - up to 3,984 parts per million (ppm). The recommended safety level is less than 0.2 ppm.

Yet Georg Petersen, director of the WHO in Cambodia, this week claimed that the waste "posed no immediate danger to the population of Sihanoukville".

"This type of mercury is not easily dissolved in water," he said at a public meeting in Sihanoukville January 2.

He also said blood and hair samples taken from port workers and soldiers involved in the cleanup did not show abnormal levels of mercury.

He admitted that urine tests on the same people showed higher levels but said that could be due to other factors.

However, an internationally established toxicologist and environmental health scientist, who is currently advising the NGO Legal Aid of Cambodia (LAC), said that blood and hair tests are not as indicative of inorganic mercury poisoning as urine tests.

The Sihanoukville dumping scandal has continued to attract attention from concerned parties around the world. The Basel Action Network, a group of activists dedicated to banning global waste trafficking, has already contacted the Ministry of Environment with a whole range of concerns, according to Jim Puckett, an activist with the group.

As of December 6, officials said the waste had been cleared and sealed into 5,950 barrels and 143 containers onsite.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all