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Health assessment of artisanal gold miners in Tanzania

By S. Boese-O'Reilly, G. Drasch, C. Beinhoff, A.L. Tesha, K. Drasch, G. Roider, H. Taylor, J.D. Appleton and U. Siebert


In 2003 UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) conducted an environmental and health assessment in a small-scale mining area in Tanzania. BGS (British Geological Survey) performed the environmental assessment. The Institute of Forensic Medicine – University of Munich performed the health assessment. The results of the medical, neurological and neuro-psychological examination of 180 participants from the affected area of Rwamagasa and 31 controls were analyzed. Urine, blood and hair samples were analyzed to detect the level of mercury body burden. Mercury concentrations in the bio-monitors urine, blood and hair were statistically significantly higher in the exposed population from Rwamagasa compared to the control group from Katoro. Only amalgam burners showed mercury levels above the toxicological threshold limits. A speciation of mercury in hair indicated that mainly elemental mercury vapor contributed to the high body burden of the artisanal miners. 104 amalgam-burners, the most exposed population group, were examined. 25 of these workers were found to be intoxicated. Small-scale mining is a serious health hazard for amalgam burners. Reduction of the exposure is essential to prevent further damage

Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2009.10.051
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