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Exposure to mercury a concern for Nome gold miners

Casey Grove

Gold miners in Nome may have exposed themselves to dangerous amounts of mercury, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.

The state health workers say they have heard stories recently of miners heating gold-mercury mixtures they've found to remove the mercury, which lets off fumes. Mercury poisoning by inhalation has been known to cause high blood pressure, increased heart rate and skin problems.

Now health department officials want to know how widespread the potential mercury exposure has been in Nome. A team will be in the Northwest Alaska city from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1 to check the miners, DHSS says. The team will be conducting urine samples to look for traces of the toxic element.

The health officials are hoping miners in the area will meet them, voluntarily, at two locations: the Nome Public Health Center on Division Street and at the West Beach tent city from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day during the screening effort.

The mercury is likely leftover from old mining operations in the area, DHSS says.

Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.

Anchorage Daily News