MINING communities in three provinces in the country were found to have dangerous levels of mercury in air which way beyond the levels that are considered safe.
Sen. Miriam Santiago citing the study conducted by Basel Action Network (BAN), an organization focused on confronting the global environmental injustice, said that mining communities in Benguet, Camarines Norte and Palawan were found to have mercury in the air, which is 30 times than the tolerable level of mercury vapor.
Santiago said that based on the BAN’s study barangay Malaguit in Paracale, Camarines Norte was found to have the highest level of mercury vapor in air at an average of 14,275 nanograms per cubic meters (npcm) and peaks to 30,000npcm.
Malaguit residential areas had an average reading of 266.7npcm of mercury vapor and a maximum reading of 5,516.2npcm.
The miners’ barracks of mining firm Benguet Corporation at Camp 5 in Itogon,
Benguet has an average reading of 3,751.8npcm and a maximum 30,000npcm of mercury vapor in the air.
Sitio Pulang-Lupa in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, which is near an abandoned mercury mine was found to have as much as 1,488npcm.
Based on the United States environmental protection agency safe level of mercury vapor is only at 900npcm while levels above 10,000npcm is considered highly dangerous and a cause for evacuation of communities.
Although mercury in the air is a natural occurrence, the study found that the highest mercury vapor concentrations were found in sites where mercury was being used or stored.
Because of the danger posed by the high level of mercury vapor to the health of the people living in the said areas, Santiago has filed a resolution asking the proper Senate committee to conduct an inquiry.
According to her legislation should make sure that environmental safety precautions that are already in place through various laws are enforced.
“These recent findings show the need for stricter enforcement of the law and supplemental regulations to make sure that the country’s air is not poisoned due to negligence and unsafe practices,” she stated in her resolution.
Besides mercury vapor, Santiago noted that Congress should also take into account other poisonous substances in the air that pose risk to health and nature may be endemic to a specific area or region such as mining areas so that environmental protection laws can be carefully crafted.