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Minerals 2011, 1(1), 122-143; doi:10.3390/min1010122

Human Biomonitoring Data from Mercury Exposed Miners in Six Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining Areas in Asia and Africa

1,2,* , 1
1 Institute of Public Health, Medical Decision Making and Health Technology Assessment (IPH), The Health & Life Sciences University (UMIT), Eduard Wallnoefer-Centre I, A 6060 Hall i.T., Austria 2 Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, University Hospital Munich, WHO Collaborating Centre for Occupational Health Ziemssenstr. 1, Munich D-80336, Germany 3 Institute of Forensic Medicine, (LMU) University of Munich, Nussbaumstr, 26, Munich D-80336, Germany 4 Cardiovascular Research Program, Institute for Technology Assessment and Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA 5 Center for Health Decision Science, Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 26 September 2011 / Revised: 16 November 2011 / Accepted: 22 November 2011 / Published: 30 November 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Safety & Health in Mining)
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Objectives: In artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM) areas in many developing countries, mercury (Hg) is used to extract gold from ore. Data of 1250 participants from Indonesia, Mongolia, Philippines, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe were combined to analyze the relation between exposure in ASGM areas and body burden. Methods: Four groups were selected relating to their intensity of contact with mercury: (i) a non-exposed control group; (ii) a low exposed group with participants only living in mining areas, but not working as miners; (iii) a medium exposed group, miners living in exposed areas and working with mercury without smelting amalgam; and (iv) a high exposed group, miners living in exposed areas and smelting amalgam. Results: Compared to the non-exposed control group, participants living and/ or miners working in highly exposed areas have significantly higher concentration of total mercury in urine, hair and blood (p-value < 0.001). The median mercury value in urine in the control group is < 0.2 µg/L. In the high exposed group of amalgam smelters, the median in urine is 12.0 µg/L. The median in blood in the control group is < 0.93 µg/L. The median level in blood of the high exposed group is 7.56 µg/L. The median for mercury in hair samples from the control group is 0.21 µg/g. In the high exposed group the median hair concentration is 2.4 µg/g hair. Mercury levels also differ considerably between the countries, reflecting a diverse background burden due to different fish eating habits and different work place methods. Conclusions: A high percentage of exposed individuals had levels above threshold values. These high levels of mercury are likely to be related with serious health problems.
Keywords: artisanal small-scale gold mining; human biomonitoring; mercury vapor artisanal small-scale gold mining; human biomonitoring; mercury vapor
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.

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Baeuml, J.; Bose-O’Reilly, S.; Gothe, R.M.; Lettmeier, B.; Roider, G.; Drasch, G.; Siebert, U. Human Biomonitoring Data from Mercury Exposed Miners in Six Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining Areas in Asia and Africa. Minerals 2011, 1, 122-143.

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