Mercury Management in the Caribbean
In the Caribbean, mercury, a highly toxic element, has been found to be present in some manufactured and imported products and some industrial processes due to its useful properties, including its high density, its liquid state at room temperature and its ability to alloy to other metals. The biggest source of mercury releases globally is due to the use of mercury in most artisanal and small-scale gold mining processes. In the Caribbean region, this occurs in countries like Guyana and Suriname.
Products in which mercury can be found include mercury thermometers, compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), linear fluorescent lightbulbs (LFLs), some batteries, electrical switches and relays, silver dental amalgam fillings, certain blood pressure gauges, and some skin-lightening creams.
It is important to note that aside from mercury added skin-lightening creams, which provide for direct contact with the skin, mercury-added products are typically not harmful to health unless broken or disposed of in an environmentally unsound manner. When broken, mercury can be released into the environment.
Mercury can enter the human body through inhalation, direct contact with the skin or ingestion of the methylated form through contaminated food or water. The effects of mercury exposure on humans can vary.