Madam Stella Kumedzro, the Volta Regional Director of Environmental Health and Sanitation, says newborns in mining communities have huge health risks.
She said the exposure of expectant mothers to chemicals such as cyanide, nitric acid, sulphuric acid, mercury and other solvents used to separate the minerals from the ore, could pose serious health problems for the babies.
“We also have harmful chemicals that are used to blast the tunnels, which is ammonium sulphide and oil, also gasolines and diesel used in the heavy vehicles in the mining industry. All these are harmful, especially to babies,” she said.
Madam Kumedzro, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, said the chemicals had negative effects on the kidney and liver and could also cause brain damage.
She said when those chemicals were inhaled, drank or ingested, they could cause effects including miscarriages, premature birth, birth defects such as babies with crooked mouth, one eye, and no nose, as well as death of the expectant mother.
Madam Kumedzro said the defects are as a result of the mutation of the genes of the mother.
She said though some babies could be born normally their body system may not function and advised expectant mothers in such communities to relocate.
She also asked expectant mothers working with mining companies to call for reassignment and be posted to safer environments.
She recommended the use of Personal Protective Equipment(PPE) to protect all workers from exposure to the chemicals.
“I cannot over-emphasize handwashing with soap under running water in this situation. It will be appropriate we wash our hands with soap under running water so that we do not ingest these chemicals,” Madam Kumedzro said.
She appealed to mining companies to use safer chemicals and mine responsibly.
Institutions that regulate the sector must ban dangerous chemicals as was done to Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), she said.