Title: Multimedia exposure assessment of mercury in a small-scale gold mining community in Northeast Ghana
Authors and Affiliations: Mozhgon Rajaee1, Rachel Long1, Mark L. Wilson2, Thomas G. Robins1, Elisha P. Renne3, Niladri Basu1
1 Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
2 Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
3 Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
Abstract: Mercury is a global pollutant utilized worldwide in small-scale gold mining and may pose a risk for miners and mining communities. Elemental mercury specifically is known to cause adverse neurological, developmental, behavioral, respiratory, gastrointestinal and nephritic effects. A multiple media exposure assessment and cross-sectional study of mercury was conducted in May – July 2011 in northeast Ghana with a small-scale gold mining community, Kejetia, and a subsistence farming community, Gorogo. The objective was to assess mercury in a range of human (urine, hair, personal air samplers) and ecological (household soil, ore) samples from both communities to increase understanding of mercury exposure pathways. Biomarkers were analyzed for total mercury. All adult participants(≥ 18 years) were interviewed on demographics, occupational and medical histories, and household characteristics. In Kejetia and Gorogo, 97 and 75 adults from 54 and 27 households, respectively, were interviewed and sampled. Mean total urinary and total hair mercury were higher in Kejetia miners (39.5 ± 172.1 µg/L, n=68 and 1.13 ± 0.81 µg/g, n=51, respectively) than Kejetia non-miners (7.4 ± 14.0 µg/L, n=21 and 0.56 ± 0.28 µg/g, n=16, respectively) and Gorogo participants (0.16 ± 0.13 µg/L, n=70, and 0.23 ± 0.20 µg/g, n=59, respectively).Elemental mercury exposure may be increased in small-scale gold mining communities, posing a risk for non-miners and vulnerable populations (children and women of childbearing age in particular) living within these communities.