DoH demands relocation of mercury-affected residents prior to treatment

Santa Lourdes has been the site of a mercury mining operation of the company Palawan Quicksilver Mines Inc. (PQMI) that closed down in the early 70s. (File photo)

The Department of Health (DOH) has declared it is ready to begin the treatment of Barangay Sta. Lourdes residents found positive for mercury poisoning.

Dr. Rommel C. Lizan, Department of Health (DOH) MIMAROPA Environmental and Occupational Health program manager, said the medicines for “chelation therapy” that they will use for medication are now at the safekeeping of East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) Toxicology Department in Quezon City.

Lisan, however, said they will require that all patients who will undergo medication must move out from the mercury-contaminated area where most of them reside.

“We will not release [the medicines] unless the affected individuals for treatment have moved [out of the danger zone],” he told Palawan News on Friday.



Chelation is a chemical process in which a synthetic solution – ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid or EDTA – is injected into the bloodstream to remove heavy metals and/or minerals from the body.

“That drug is like a magnet. They will all the more absorb mercury in their system if they will continue living in that environment. Also, chances are the mercury level in their body would go even higher,” he said.

City Housing Chief Eduardo Driz said only seven out of the 30 households recommended have so far vacated the mercury-contaminated area and transferred to the city’s relocation site in Barangay Mangingisda.

“Maybe they are not interested in the relocation site or they don’t want to leave their houses in the [danger] site. Also, possibly they are not convinced of the negative effects of mercury contamination to their body,” Driz said.

Lizan said there were two Palawan doctors already trained to perform the treatment to severely affected patients.

“I have already talked to the EAMC consultant and he agreed to conduct the chelation in a hospital in Puerto Princesa,” the environmental and occupational health specialist said.

In an interview in September 2017, Lizan said 30 residents found to have high levels of mercury in their blood are set to undergo free treatment, normally costing P200,000 to P300,000 per person

He said the medication will last for a minimum of three to six months, or even up to six months to one year, depending on the toxicity level and the response of the body to the medicine.

On one hand, some 40 individuals with mild cases will only be given supplements and vitamins that would flush out mercury in their body.

Lizan added that the DOH is just awaiting the go signal from the city government and Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau to begin with the treatment.

“They are the ones who will do coordination with the patients,” he added.


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