Human health risk assessment of exposure to indoor mercury vapour in a Ghanaian artisanal small-scale gold mining community

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  • Opoku Gyamfi, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology
  • ,
  • Peter Borgen Sorenson
  • Godfred Darko, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology
  • ,
  • Eugene Ansah, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology
  • ,
  • Jesper Leth Bak

People living or working in and around artisanal small-scale gold mining communities can be exposed to mercury vapour, which may negatively affect their health. In this study, the human exposure to air borne mercury in an artisanal mining community in the Upper East region of Ghana was investigated using Lumex RA 915 M mercury analyser, an active sampler. The concentration of mercury in air was measured inside and outside households and was related to human health risk standards. For each household, one measurement was taken from outside and three from inside at different positions. About 91% of the households where amalgam burning was reported had concentrations higher than the USEPA reference dose of 300 ng m−3 whereas 64% of the households where amalgam burning was not reported exceeded the reference dose above. The maximal (upper) instrumental limit (50,000 ng m−3) was passed for the highest concentrations, so, the upper 97.5% concentration was estimated, using censored statistics, to exceed 800,000 ng m−3 for the fireplaces. This exceeds any reported indoor household air concentration of Hg, identified by the literature review in this paper. Estimated hazard quotients were found to range from <1 to 108 within the households that are reported not to burn amalgam. In the households where amalgam burning reportedly takes place, the hazard quotient had a range of 0.01–160. Mercury concentrations measured in households with reported amalgam burning are approximately ten times higher than those households with no reported burning of amalgam. The censored data predicted hazard quotients up to 966. The results indicate that both miners and non-miners of the community are at risk of adverse health effects resulting from inhalation of mercury vapour.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
Artikelnummer125014
TidsskriftChemosphere
Vol/bind241
Antal sider9
ISSN0045-6535
DOI
StatusUdgivet - feb. 2020

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