Article: article from journal or magazin.
Human mercury exposure associated with small-scale gold mining in Burkina Faso.
International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Publication types: Journal Article ; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov'tPublication Status: ppublish
PURPOSE: In Burkina Faso, gold ore is one of the main sources of income for an important part of the active population. Artisan gold miners use mercury in the extraction, a toxic metal whose human health risks are well known. The aim of the present study was to assess mercury exposure as well as to understand the exposure determinants of gold miners in Burkinabe small-scale mines.METHODS: The examined gold miners' population on the different selected gold mining sites was composed by persons who were directly and indirectly related to gold mining activities. But measurement of urinary mercury was performed on workers most susceptible to be exposed to mercury. Thus, occupational exposure to mercury was evaluated among ninety-three workers belonging to eight different gold mining sites spread in six regions of Burkina Faso. Among others, work-related exposure determinants were taken into account for each person during urine sampling as for example amalgamating or heating mercury. All participants were medically examined by a local medical team in order to identify possible symptoms related to the toxic effect of mercury.RESULTS: Mercury levels were high, showing that 69% of the measurements exceeded the ACGIH (American Conference of Industrial Hygienists) biological exposure indice (BEI) of 35 µg per g of creatinine (µg/g-Cr) (prior to shift) while 16% even exceeded 350 µg/g-Cr. Basically, unspecific but also specific symptoms related to mercury toxicity could be underlined among the persons who were directly related to gold mining activities. Only one-third among the studied subpopulation reported about less than three symptoms possibly associated to mercury exposure and nearly half of them suffered from at least five of these symptoms. Ore washers were more involved in the direct handling of mercury while gold dealers in the final gold recovery activities. These differences may explain the overexposure observed in gold dealers and indicate that the refining process is the major source of exposure.CONCLUSIONS: This study attests that mercury exposure still is an issue of concern. North-South collaborations should encourage knowledge exchange between developing and developed countries, for a cleaner artisanal gold mining process and thus for reducing human health and environmental hazards due to mercury use.
Gold , Mining , Mercury , Occupational Exposure , Environmental Monitoring ,
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