Health Risks May Be Associated with use of Mercury in Religious Practice

Source: The New York Times Magazine

On February 18, 2001, The New York Times Magazine reported that “comparatively minor sources of mercury contamination in New York’s harbor may be a result of local spiritual and cultural practices…Thirty-five New York-area botanicas, or stores offering herbal products and religious items used in the Afro-Caribbean and Latin American traditions of Santeria, voodoo and Espiritismo, as well as revised Wiccan practices, reported selling 100 to 300 capsules per day.”


Health Risks May Be Associated with use of Mercury in Religious Practice

Source: American Journal of Public Health

In the January 1996 edition of the American Journal of Public Health, a letter to the editor was published that stated, “As providers of community health and mental health services in underserved areas, we recognize the public health threat of dispensing mercury. However, we recommend also that the dangers of mercury be sensitively separated from the social-psychological benefits of spiritualism. In inner-city Hispanic communities, espirtismo is an indigenous source of community socialization and support. Spiritualists frequently represent the first line of extrafamilial mental health intervention. Since botanicas also sell medicinal plants and herbal remedies, they offer some basic health care familiar to the culture of Latin America. Therefore, public health interventions must be aimed at helping spiritualists find safe alternatives to mercury.