Urban artisanal gold mining (UAGM) in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, has been run by a number of urban gold workers with gold jewelry manufacture as its core activity. The wastes generated from goldsmiths’ activities were further processed by the gold smelters to recover fine gold particles. Smelting gold doré, amalgamation, and burning out the amalgam were the mercury-based gold process usually applied in their work. While working the gold workers are, therefore, potentially exposed to a source of mercury pollution that may cause health problems because of working without proper protection. The aims of this research are to characterize the process of urban artisanal gold mining with the potential mercury exposures during the process, and to assess the health of the gold workers. The results showed that the gold workers had a low educational background, but a relatively high income. The total mercury concentration of gold workers was higher than the control group. They were exposed to intoxicatingly high levels of mercury with the average total mercury concentrations of 6.6 and 10.8 µg/g in the hair of indirect and direct exposed workers, respectively. The health assessment showed that 85% of the gold workers suffered neurological symptoms, such as tremors, and 44%–56% of them experienced restricted fields of vision, slow reflexes, sensory disturbances, unbalanced rigidity, and ataxia. The results also showed that the working years have reasonable correlation with the sum of the positive findings in the 10 neurological symptoms.
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