Inderscience Publishers

Health and environmental training in mercury-contaminated areas

In 50 countries small-scale miners recover gold by amalgamation process, using excessive quantities of mercury. Fifteen million artisanal gold miners apply this process and 100 million people might depend upon these activities. Small-scale mining adds extensively to the worldwide release of mercury into the environment. The University of Munich assessed the health of people living in mining communities in three countries as part of the 'Global Mercury Project'. The main finding was that mercury causes chronic mercury intoxication in miners. Mercury exposure needs to be reduced. Regulations for the prevention of health problems have to be enforced in the mining areas. People with mercury intoxication need medical treatment. It is necessary to build up a system to diagnose and treat mercury-related health problems in mining areas. Capacity building including establishing laboratory facilities to analyse mercury is required. Clinical training of local health workers is a requirement. To increase the awareness of the special health hazards for small-scale miners, a training curriculum for Healthcare Providers was developed. In Tanzania and in Indonesia, first training programmes took place in 2004/5. Evaluation showed striking evidence for the necessity of this type of training and the need to continue and improve these educational programmes.

Keywords: environmental training, healthcare training, Indonesia, mercury contamination, Tanzania, small scale mining, gold recovery, gold miners, human health, health hazards, education, environmental pollution

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