Few studies have reported health effects from mercury vapor released at gold mining when using the amalgamation method. This is because the mining sites are often newly developed, without authorization, located far away and the miners have limited awareness on health risks and weak capacity to request relevant studies. Negligible tax returns from small-scale miners limit possibilities to allocate medical resources to their sites. An example is Diwalwal, Mt Diwata in the southern Philippines, where just one medical doctor serves a mining community with about 20 000 inhabitants, including 1200 school children. Therefore he is limited to carry out the most urgent medical care and have no time to diagnose potential health effects of several tonnes of mercury annually emitted in the village. The main aim of this study was to estimate the extent of nervous damages among the population in a small-scale mining village. Another aim was to
evaluate a set of diagnosing methods for nervous damages and to judge whether employing just one or two of them may give an accurate diagnosis, eventually performed by staff having limited medical training. The study was performed in Mt Diwata, having
about 300 mills with subsequent mercury amalgamation. In August 2005, 66 persons, predominantly men, were examined for eventual neurological damages. The persons were the same as had been sampled for blood and hair in February 2005 and analyzed for Hg concentrations, which will be reported elsewhere. Staff at two offices in Davao City, situated four hours drive from Mt Diwata, were also examined and served as a reference group. The examinations revealed that nobody in the reference group was diagnosed for neurological damages, while some cases were confirmed in Mt Diwata, predominantly
persons burning amalgam. In spite of this, we do not recommend a general introduction of protective masks with mercury trapping filters to amalgam burners, because this will not protect the children, being most vulnerable. In conclusion: a brain damaged by mercury vapor cannot be healed, so industrialized countries should transfer appropriate knowledge and mining technology rather than mercury, as presently done, to Mt Diwata.
2006. 574- p.