UG Professor cautions pregnant women against seafood

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The Head of Population, Family and Reproductive Health at the University of Ghana (UG) School of Public Health, Professor Richmond Aryeetey, has advised pregnant and lactating women to stay away from seafoods like shrimp, lobsters and fish like tuna.

According to him chemicals such as mercury and other heavy metals, which could affect the cognitive development of babies, could be present in seafoods.

Richmond Aryeetey, UG Professor

Mercury is a naturally-occurring silver-coloured chemical element found in rock in the earth’s crust, including in deposits of coal.

It is used in many industries including in the production of chlorine gas and caustic soda, and in thermometers, barometers, batteries, and electrical switches.

In an interview with the Ghana News Agency, Prof Aryeetey said a study by the university had indicted that many Ghanaians, in recent times, were exposed to mercury as a result of eating fishes and other seafoods who had consumed the metal.

Currently, there was no policy related to fish and mercury, but there was evidence that when small fishes consume methylmercury, they got eaten by bigger fishes, which accumulated even more mercury, he said.

“I will say that if you are a pregnant woman eat smaller fish,” Prof Aryeetey advised.

He lamented that the release of high levels of mercury into the environment, soil and river sediments with any containment efforts was wording because “children exposed to mercury had more serious nervous effects.”

Prof Aryeetey said the damage caused by the introduction of heavy metals into the bodies of babies during pregnancies and breastfeeding at their developmental stages could not be overlooked.

“Mercury is a metal, but when it’s burnt and released into the air and water, it is converted into a poisonous substance called methyl mercury, which is consumed by fish and other sea foods, the small fishes cannot take so much like the big fishes, which later eat up the small fishes,” he explained.

Prof. Aryeetey said about 81 tonnes of mercury was released into the environment annually through amalgamation and burning of the amalgam.

He said illegal mining activities were also releasing toxic chemicals, which posed health risks such as functional impairment or disability to miners and border societies in the long term.

He explained that heavy metals produced when the earth is excavated during mining affect different parts of the body like the nerve, lung, skin, kidney, brain, and the reproductive organs hence increasing the public risk to hypertension, heart attack and kidney failure.


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