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4 US scientists to help clear Parañaque school of mercury

May 26, 2006 8:27pm

Four American scientists have arrived in the country to help in the decontamination of St. Andrew’s School in Parañaque, Manila, which remains closed following a mercury leak last February.

The US embassy said experts from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are in Manila helping Philippine officials. Nearly 2,000 students have been unable to make use of the school for the past three months due to fear of poisoning after mercury was spilled in one of the science classrooms.

The Department of Health (DOH) requested the US EPA to send scientists experienced in mercury decontamination to consult with local government agencies on how best to get the school back in operation and ensure its safety.

The scientists are completing their two-week consultation with government and school officials, where they discussed measurement and interpretation of
data, identification of appropriate next steps, and parameters for the school’s re-opening.

The DOH’s Inter-Agency Committee on Environmental Health – Task Force Mercury is hosting the EPA scientists and partnering with them in this assessment effort.

Twenty-five students of St. Andrew's School were hospitalized due to mercury poisoning and had detectable levels of mercury in their blood after an experiment went haywire.

Two of the victims were recommended to undergo "chelation therapy" to remove the toxic metal from their blood.

The DOH earlier said they will not lift the order temporary closing the school as the mercury levels at the rooms where the spill occurred are still above the
acceptable limits.

High exposure to mercury vapor may cause acute poisoning, skin rashes, dermatitis, mood swings, memory loss, mental disturbance and muscle weakness.

Symptoms usually begin with cough, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, and upset stomach, he said.

Also, very high exposure to the substance can lead to neurologic symptoms such as chronic or frequent headaches, dizziness, ringing or noises in ears, and fine tremors in hands, feet, eyelids and tongue as well as cause birth defects to children of exposed mothers.-GMANews.TV
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