Hospital admissions with kidney diseases have tripled in the last 10 years at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH).
Outpatient cases with kidney-related diseases have also quadrupled, with a number of these patients hailing from mining communities.
Officials at the health facility have attributed the growing cause to the use of mercury in illegal mining activities happening in some of Ghana’s farmlands and forest covers.
A nephrologist at KATH, Dr Elliott Tannor, revealed that the use of the chemical in extracting gold has a direct effect on the kidney, heart and brain.
He indicated that people domiciled in illegal mining areas are exposed to the toxic metal through inhalation and consumption of water sources in the communities.
“The number of people who are presenting with kidney disease is increasing. Data we collected from the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, just looking at the past 10 years, has revealed the numbers are increasing. When we look at our admissions ten years ago, we are admitting three times.
“The people we used to see as outpatients are also four times than 10 years ago. Sadly, when these cases are presented to us there are usually at their end stage,” he said.
Speaking on Luv FM’s Luv in the Morning on Monday, the kidney expert disclosed that the average age of persons in Ghana living with kidney diseases has reduced from its normal 60 years to a rather disturbing age of 40 years.
Available research indicates that mercury cannot be removed from water through boiling as seen in most households that rely on water sources in the mining areas.
As a result, people who consume water contaminated with mercury deposits could have their nervous system affected, leading to neurological symptoms such as anxiety, irritability or mood changes, numbness, memory problems, depression, and physical tremors.
Dr Tannor is, therefore, advocating an all-inclusive effort to eradicate the devastating impacts of illegal mining activities as it trickles down to residents in urban centres.
“We need to ensure that we look at this high up in terms of ensuring that it’s not just lip-service. We need to push government to do something about it. We need to be a bit more forceful.
“We need some positive action and let the authorities know that these are our lives talking about. We need to ensure that the right things are done to safeguard us and our generations,” he added.
Kidney diseases are, however, reported not to have any cure but could be managed through medical treatments.
Meanwhile, some farmers in Atiwa West are resorting to the use of sachet water to irrigate their farms.
Co-Principal Investigator for the University of York and member of the University of Ghana Galamsey Research Team, Professor Gladys Nyarko Ansah, made the revelation on JoyNews’ current affairs programme, NewsFile.
“Farmers have to buy pure water not just to drink but to mix with their agrochemicals to spray their farms. We are trapped,” she said.