Saturday, February 4, 2017

Marinduque's 'silent epidemic'


Vergiftete Versprechen, (The Poisoned Island*),  by Von Marius Munstermann was published on January 28-29, 2017 in the German national daily Suddeutsche Zetrung. Part 3 of the article is titled "The silent epidemic". Excerpts of the Google translation from German of the said part of the article follows:



Part 3

The Silent Epidemic

For the children of the villages the river bed is a giant sandbox. They accompany their parents and grandparents who work here. They carry off the poison sludge rinsed into the valley at the end of the dam. Their shovels and sieves swirl up the toxic heavy metal particles that the children then inhale. Somehow they landed in the practice of Dr. Edzel Muhi.


Mogpog Municipal Health Officer, Dr. Edzel Muhi

Here, the young doctor sees every day patients with strange disorders. With some, the lung rattles. Then there are the many skin diseases.

And for several years now, cancer cases, especially leukemia, have accumulated.

Muhi wanted to know more. He devoted his doctoral thesis to the heavy metals on Marinduque and the health hazards which they emanate. With his study from 2011 he showed how much the toxic heavy metals from opencast mining threaten the health of the people on Marinduque decades after the end of mining.

In the contaminated Marinduque river, Muhi showed increased concentrations of toxic heavy metals. Muhi considers the children who play in the riverbed particularly vulnerable.

Since there are no bridges in most areas, people cross the rivers on foot. Like the fishermen in Calancan Bay, they also suffer from painful skin irritations.


AMD flowing down Mogpog River

In order to better assess the health effects of the toxic mining cocktail on the 230,000 inhabitants of Marinduques, Muhi calls for comprehensive studies. But for now money is missing.

Already in 1997, the first blood tests were carried out for a group of 59 schoolchildren living in villages along Calancan Bay.

The World Health Organization writes about the effects of lead on the human body: "Lead affects the child's brain development, resulting in a reduced intelligence rate, a shortened attention span, increasingly antisocial behavior and reduced learning ability. Bleeding stress can also lead to anemia, hypertension, kidney damage, poisoning of the immune system and the sexual organs. "

Three of the children examined later died of lead poisoning.

The Philippine government imposed a state of calamity for health reasons in 1997 on Calancan Bay. 14 years later, Muhi took blood tests from 356 test persons who live along the bay. 



Muhi speaks of a silent epidemic, because the health damage is widespread. If you eat contaminated fish, like the people of Calancan Bay, the toxins accumulate in the body over time. Until cancer or other illnesses may occur, it takes years.

"Many people go to the doctor only when their condition is life-threatening - especially the poor. An examination of each individual case or heavy metals is too expensive", Muhi says.

Immediately visible damage is often seen in newborns. Embryos that are already exposed to heavy metals in the mother's body are considered to be particularly vulnerable. They can cause physical deformities. Muhi is increasingly aware of cases of microcephaly, a rare malformation that shrinks the head and severely limits the child's abilities. Muhi is responsible for the mothers' mercury poisoning.



The injured in Marinduque defend themselves. They lean against a possibly overpowering opponent.


*The poisoned island is from the Google translation. A German speaker says Vergiftete Versprechen means 'Poisoned Promises'.

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