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Mercury exposure and health impacts among individuals in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining community: a comprehensive review.


ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Mercury (Hg) is used in gold mining to extract gold from ore by forming "amalgam"-a mixture composed of approximately equal parts mercury and gold. Approximately 15 million people, including approximately 3 million women and children, participate in artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM) in developing countries. Thirty-seven percent of global air emissions of Hg are produced by ASGM. The recently adopted Minamata Convention calls for nations to gather health data, train health-care workers, and raise awareness in regard to ASGM activity. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of our review was to evaluate the current literature regarding the health effects of Hg among those working and/or living in or near ASGM communities. METHODS: We searched PubMed, ScienceDirect, and Google Scholar for studies relating to health effects and biomarkers of Hg exposure in ASGM communities. Articles published from 1990 through December 2012 were evaluated for relevance. DISCUSSION: Studies reporting health assessments, kidney dysfunction, neurological disorders and symptoms, and immunotoxicity/autoimmune dysfunction in individuals living in or near an ASGM community were identified. More than 60 studies that measured biomarkers of Hg exposure in individuals living in or near ASGM communities were also identified. These studies, conducted in 19 different countries in South America, Asia, and Africa, demonstrated that hair and urine concentrations are well above World Health Organization health guidance values in ASGM communities. CONCLUSIONS: ASGM workers and their families are exposed to Hg vapor, and workers, workers' families, and residents of nearby and downstream communities are consuming fish heavily contaminated with methylmercury.

SUBMITTER: Gibb H 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC4080518 | BioStudies | 2014-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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