Title: Mercury exposure among miners in an artisanal gold mining community in Ashanti Region of Ghana
Authors and Affiliations: Edward Ebow Kwaansa-Ansah1, Osei Akoto1, Niladri Basu2
1Department of Chemistry, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana
2Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
Abstract: Amansie West District of the Ashanti region is rich in gold deposits hence surface mining is the most important economic activity in which mercury is largely employed. In the extraction process, the resultant amalgam is roasted where mercury vapour is released and inhaled by the individuals within the vicinity. In this study, total mercury concentrations in scalp hair, urine and finger nails of thirty-six (36) miners were determined to ascertain the extent of mercury exposure among the individuals. The mean total mercury of the nails of the miners was 3.323 ± 0.36μg/g and a range of 0.387 – 12.688 μg/g. The hair samples recorded a mean of 6.591±0.006 μg/g and a range of 1.982 – 15.966 μg/g. Some individuals recorded concentrations which are above the WHO safety limit of 10.000 μg/g above which adverse health effects may occur. The mean total mercury concentration of the urine samples was 6.967±0.055 μg/L with a range of 2.589-12.009 μg/L which is lower than the WHO guideline value for urine mercury concentration of 50.00 μg/L. We found that the total mercury accumulated by the individuals was independent of age but correlated positively and significantly (p = 0.05) with the duration of stay in the occupation. Although, the results indicate elevated internal dose of mercury in the miner, the current levels do not appear to pose a significant health threat to the miner. However, there should be a continual monitoring since there is the likelihood that the concentrations may increase to levels that could pose health threat.