Children born in areas prone to illegal mining suffer cognitive impairment and other deformities due to the high use of heavy metals used in gold extraction by galamsey operators.
That is the observation of Prof. Paul Poku Sampene Ossei, Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, School of Medical Sciences, KNUST and Consultant Pathologist at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH).
“The first thing that affects these babies when they are infected by these toxins is cognitive impairment; their brains do not respond to these normal things that we see,” he said.
Common metals used in the extraction of gold, including mercury, cyanide, and lead are inhaled and ingested into the bloodstream of the miners and residents of mining communities.
Children and infants can absorb up to 50% of these heavy metals when they inhale these substances or eat food contaminated by these heavy metals. Adults have the capacity to absorb 15-20 per cent of the metals.
“The child’s gastrointestinal tract has a very high affinity to all those metals, which includes lead,” noted the pathologist.
Prof. Sampene Ossei was contributing to a discussion on Luv Fm on the impacts of illegal mining on health and security.
According to him, there are instances in some jurisdictions where babies are born with their legs forming around the chest, neck and stomach.
“In Ghana, we have babies being born with one eye, without genitalia,” said Prof. Sampene Ossei, adding that some mothers die with their babies.
“The placenta of a pregnant woman has a high affinity for lead. So if such a woman lives in a galamsey area, her baby will certainly have deformities when born,” he said.
The children suffer from kidney and hypertensive-related conditions.