Artisanal gold mining in Kakamega and Vihiga counties, Kenya: potential human exposure and health risk

Ondayo, Maureene Auma; Watts, Michael J.; Hamilton, Elliott M.; Mitchell, Clive ORCID:; Mankelow, Joseph; Osano, Odipo. 2023 Artisanal gold mining in Kakamega and Vihiga counties, Kenya: potential human exposure and health risk. Environmental Geochemistry and Health, 45. 6543-6565.

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Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) represents 20% of gold supply and 90% of gold mining workforce globally, which operates in highly informal setups. Pollutants from mined ores and chemicals introduced during gold processing pose occupational and inadvertent health risks to the extent that has not been well elucidated in Africa. Trace and major elements were analysed using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry in soil, sediment and water samples from 19 ASGM villages in Kakamega and Vihiga counties. Associated health risks for residents and ASGM workers were assessed. This paper focuses on As, Cd, Cr, Hg, Ni and Pb for which 96% of soil samples from mining and ore processing sites had As concentrations up to 7937 times higher than the US EPA 12 mg kg−1 standard for residential soils. Soil Cr, Hg and Ni concentrations in 98%, 49% and 68% of the samples exceeded respective USEPA and CCME standards, with 1–72% bioaccessibility. Twenty-five percentage of community drinking water sources were higher than the WHO 10 µg L−1 drinking water guideline. Pollution indices indicated significant enrichment and pollution of soils, sediment and water in decreasing order of As > Cr > Hg > Ni > Pb > Cd. The study revealed increased risks of non-cancer health effects (98.6) and cancer in adults (4.93 × 10−2) and children (1.75 × 10−1). The findings will help environment managers and public health authorities better understand the potential health risks in ASGM and support evidence-based interventions in ASGM processes, industrial hygiene and formulation of public health policy to protect residents and ASGM workers’ health in Kenya.

Item Type: Publication - Article
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ISSN: 0269-4042
Date made live: 01 Aug 2023 15:12 +0 (UTC)

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