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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(9), 10755-10782; doi:10.3390/ijerph120910755

Mercury Exposure Assessment and Spatial Distribution in A Ghanaian Small-Scale Gold Mining Community

1
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
2
Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, 101 West Hall, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
3
Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan, 4700 Haven Hall, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
4
Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, McGill University, 21, 111 Lakeshore Rd., Ste. Anne de Bellevue, QC H9X 3V9, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Susan Keane and Paleah Black Moher
Received: 2 June 2015 / Revised: 18 August 2015 / Accepted: 26 August 2015 / Published: 1 September 2015
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Abstract

Mercury is utilized worldwide in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) and may pose a risk for miners and mining communities. While a number of studies have characterized mercury in ASGM communities, most have focused on a single media and few have taken a holistic approach. Here, a multiple media exposure assessment and cross-sectional study of mercury was conducted in 2010 through 2012 in northeast Ghana with a small-scale gold mining community, Kejetia, a subsistence farming community, Gorogo, and an urban ASGM gold refinery in Bolgatanga. The objective was to assess mercury in a range of human (urine and hair) and ecological (household soil, sediment, fish, and ore) samples to increase understanding of mercury exposure pathways. All participants were interviewed on demographics, occupational and medical histories, and household characteristics. Participants included 90 women of childbearing age and 97 adults from Kejetia and 75 adults from Gorogo. Median total specific gravity-adjusted urinary, hair, and household soil mercury were significantly higher in Kejetia miners (5.18 µg/L, 0.967 µg/g, and 3.77 µg/g, respectively) than Kejetia non-miners (1.18 µg/L, 0.419 µg/g, and 2.00 µg/g, respectively) and Gorogo participants (0.154 µg/L, 0.181 µg/g, and 0.039 µg/g) in 2011. Sediment, fish, and ore Hg concentrations were below guideline values. Median soil mercury from the Bolgatanga refinery was very high (54.6 µg/g). Estimated mean mercury ingestion for Kejetia adults from soil and dust exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reference dose (0.3 µg Hg/kg·day) for pica (0.409 µg Hg/kg·day) and geophagy (20.5 µg Hg/kg·day) scenarios. Most participants with elevated urinary and household soil mercury were miners, but some non-miners approached and exceeded guideline values, suggesting a health risk for non-mining residents living within these communities. View Full-Text
Keywords: mercury; Ghana; small-scale gold mining; ASGM; GIS mercury; Ghana; small-scale gold mining; ASGM; GIS
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Rajaee, M.; Long, R.N.; Renne, E.P.; Basu, N. Mercury Exposure Assessment and Spatial Distribution in A Ghanaian Small-Scale Gold Mining Community. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12, 10755-10782.

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