An initial batch of 30 residents from Barangay Santa Lourdes determined by Department of Health (DOH) to have high levels of mercury in their blood are set to undergo free medication.
Dr. Rommel C. Lizan, DOH-MIMAROPA Environmental and Occupational Health Program Manager, told Palawan News they are just awaiting the arrival of the medicines that will be used for “chelation therapy” to begin the treatment procedures.
“They told us that the order has been placed. I can’t tell when the medicine from abroad will arrive. But once it’s there, treatment will start,” Lizan said.
According to the website WebMD, chelation is a chemical process in which a synthetic solution-EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid)-is injected into the bloodstream to remove heavy metals and/or minerals from the body.
“When EDTA is injected into the veins, it “grabs” heavy metals and minerals such as lead, mercury, copper, iron, arsenic, aluminum, and calcium and removes them from the body,” the website said.
Since Palawan has no fully-equipped hospital that can provide chelation, Lizan said it will be done “free of charge” in East Avenue Medical Center’s (EAMC) Toxicology Department in Quezon City.
“Treatment will cost P200,000 to P300,000 per person, and it will probably last for a minimum of three to six months, or it may go up to six months to one year, depending on the toxicity level and the response of the body to the medicine,” he said.
Lizan said that some 40 individuals with mild cases will only be given supplements and vitamins that would flush out mercury in their body.
The supplementation, he added, will be supervised by two Palawan doctors trained on identification management of patient with heavy metal poisoning last July.
To allow the chelation treatment take its course, Lizan advised patients to vacate the area where they contracted mercury.
“The challenge is for them to leave the mercury-contaminated area, because I cannot assure that they will not contract mercury anymore if they will continue living there,” he said.
The city government has already offered relocation to 28 families residing near the open pit mercury mining area of the defunct Palawan Quicksilver Mine, Incorporated (PQMI).
Of the 12 families that were given a slot, City Housing Chief Eduardo Driz said at least four families have voluntarily demolished their houses and transferred to Barangay Mangingisda as of August.
Driz said some families still refuse to vacate the affected area, insisting their respective land properties are titled. He added that other families are also waiting for a promised P10,000 financial from the city government before transferring to the relocation area.
The city government has yet to decide whether to cover the transportation expenses of the patients who will be brought to EAMC for chelation.