Kenyans are a scared lot. Scared after it emerged that barons have been importing sugar that is not fit for human consumption and then repackaging it for retail.
The sugar is said to originate from Brazil and importers repackage into retail packets of known local sugar manufacturers.
Government investigators found some of the sugar to have been contaminated with mercury and copper.
This latest development has stoked fear among Kenyans, and it should because mercury has adverse effects, even when consumed in trace quantities.
It is known to have toxic effects on the lungs, skin, eye and kidneys. It also affects the nervous, immune and digestive systems.
The extent or form of effects depends on the type of mercury (e.g. methylmercury or metallic mercury), age, type of exposure (breathing, eating or skin contact) and length of exposure.
According to the World Health Organization, foetuses and people who are continuously exposed to mercury are most sensitive to its effects.
Symptoms of mercury exposure include memory loss, loss of peripheral vision, tremors, pins and needles feeling on hands and feet, lack of sleep, headaches, muscle weakness, cognitive and motor dysfunction.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, foetuses exposed to methylmercury may have develop problems with cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, fine motor and visual spatial skills.
Some adverse effects of mercury poisoning can be reversed fully or partially through therapy and stopping exposure. However, prolonged exposure may cause irreversible damage on foetuses and young children.