Wednesday, 13 April 2011


Alert. While rummaging through old stocks at home, I accidentally dropped a mercurial thermometer releasing the beautiful element into the floor. Panic. Instinct told me to gather the quicksilver with a plastic pan and dispose of it in the trash bin. That alas was the wrong way to deal with the situation.

Using paper or a dropper, I should have collected the spilled mercury and kept it in a sealed bottle and then disposed of it through some hazardous waste system somewhere. With what I did, the mercury had split in very tiny droplets and released toxic gas to which myself and others inside the house would have been exposed. At that point, there wasn't a way of rolling back time and the process. I have been caught with ignorance and subjected all of us to much health risks.

Suddenly I remembered this news story about a school whose freshman high students played around with a beaker filled with the chemical during a science class. As a result, around 80 students were exposed and some of them had to be hospitalized due to symptoms of contamination. The school had been shut down as the toxicity level within had gone beyond tolerable levels. The school would have eventually resumed operations months later after having been certified clean.

Apparently, exposure can to lead to toxic proportions and may affect primarily the nervous system. As in the case of one student from this school, I learned that the poor kid who is now in college has been suffering from chronic fever and tremors thereby affecting his entire life.

To deal with and settle the issue, I would have to submit myself and others at home to some test that will determine the mercury content in our bloodstream. It is yet unclear at this point how we could determine the toxicity level, if any, inside our house.

May all of you be aware and safe.

Saturday, 9 April 2011


Reality. When my colleague from China announced that she had contracted tuberculosis, I realized that because we pursue similar work activities around a region of the world I am just as vulnerable as she was. My immediate thought was that she may have been easily exposed during her flights. A simple cough or sneeze from a seatmate is a timebomb as droplets of potential TB bacteria circulate through the cabin into the clueless mass of passengers. Yes, travel is a lethal vector in mankind's health misfortunes.

A couple of years back, I felt invulnerable by not wanting to wear face masks in planes and in airports even when the SARS virus raged. That epidemic I know was taken very seriously not only by airport authorities but also by passengers themselves. At its height, I boarded a plane from Charles de Gaulle and pleasantly found the flight which is usually overbooked to have been less than half-filled. Despite that, I was not bumped into the next higher class.

Back home, my route at around 6pm takes me through a major street with hovels of videoke joints where retinues of young women front these establishments serving beer and barbecued pork. Working class gentlemen are among regular customers. I am nearly certain that on lucid moments with beer in hand and a tune to beat, these men suddenly kiss their women-hostesses on lips, not the dry kind though. A fertile ground for TB infection. Whether all these women are carriers or get infected by their clients is not an issue anymore in the same way that these workers are supposedly certified by the local health authorities. As TB is a public health problem, I do not think that preventive measures are easy to institutionalize particularly when they threaten livelihood and the economy.

My colleague is now well after a long regimen of treatment with what she called multi-drugs daily. She and I live in this part of Asia where according to statistics about a third of the population is infected with tuberculosis. Because it is a disease of poverty, TB is difficult to stem and much less a problem in treatment as compliance has always been unenforceable with daily and lengthy dosages not to mention the body's resistance to the drugs.

I do not have a choice but be exposed to this danger which could however be managed. What I know is that the threat is real , the disease curable, early recognition key, and prevention essential.

After a long while (haven't had any last month), I posted this not-so entertaining item but thought it may be relevent today from following the blogs I had.