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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(1), 34; doi:10.3390/ijerph14010034

Gold Mining in Ecuador: A Cross-Sectional Assessment of Mercury in Urine and Medical Symptoms in Miners from Portovelo/Zaruma

1
Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, WHO Collaborating Centre for Occupational Health, University Hospital Munich, Munich 80336, Germany
2
Department of Medical Information Sciences, Biometrics, and Epidemiology IBE, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Munich 81377, Germany
3
Institute of Public Health, Medical Decision Making and Health Technology Assessment, Department of Public Health, Health Services Research and Health Technology Assessment, UMIT (University for Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology), Eduard Wallnoefer Center I, A-6060 Hall i.T., Innsbruck 6060, Austria
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Timothy Dvonch and Nicola Pirrone
Received: 30 October 2016 / Revised: 13 December 2016 / Accepted: 21 December 2016 / Published: 30 December 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mercury and Health: Current Perspectives and Future Directions)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [2237 KB, uploaded 30 December 2016]   |  

Abstract

Mercury is a toxic metal and is used in small scale gold mining. In Portovelo, Ecuador, mercury has been an environmental and health problem for decades. The target of this study was to assess the mercury concentration in the urine of miners from Portovelo/Zaruma to establish a prevalence of high values. Eight hundred and sixty-five (865) urine samples were collected and analysed for their mercury content, using cold vapor atom absorption spectroscopy. The prevalence of high mercury values (>25 μg/L) was estimated. Forty-four (44) miners with mercury levels >15 μg/L filled in a questionnaire for characteristics and possible confounders, and were examined for intoxication symptoms to establish the ten points medical score sum. The median urine value was 1.8 μg/L; 78.3% of miners were below 7 μg/L and were not at risk of an intoxication, whereas 5.9% of miners exceeded the limit of 25 μg/L and were probable to experience intoxication symptoms. The medical score sum had a range of 2 to 8 points with a median of 6. The low prevalence of high mercury concentrations shows that the politics and techniques to eliminate the use of mercury are being successfully implemented. Further studies are needed to identify factors enabling this process. View Full-Text
Keywords: mercury; artisanal small scale gold mining; Ecuador; urine; medical score sum mercury; artisanal small scale gold mining; Ecuador; urine; medical score sum
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Schutzmeier, P.; Berger, U.; Bose-O’Reilly, S. Gold Mining in Ecuador: A Cross-Sectional Assessment of Mercury in Urine and Medical Symptoms in Miners from Portovelo/Zaruma. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 34.

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