Human exposure to elemental mercury occurs mainly through inhalation of vapours, contact and ingestion through consumption of contaminated sea food.Objective
To assess the magnitude of health problems related to mercury exposure among artisanal and small scale gold mining community in Chunya District.Methodology
Analytical cross section study was conducted in gold mine community in Chunya District. A multistage random sampling method was used to recruit study participants from Saza and Makongorosi mining area recruited as exposed and individuals from two wards surrounding the mining area as unexposed group. Data was collected by a pre-tested interview schedule administered face to face to the interviewee with both open and closed ended questions followed by urine sample collection which was then analysed by CVAAS technique to determine the level of mercury. Data analysis was done by using Chi-square and incase numbers were too small for Fisher’s exact test was employed. Measure of association is significant where p<0.05 Statistical analysis was done by SPSS version 21.Results
A total of 150 participants with the age between 15 and 67 (mean age 33.77 (SD=12.12) and 33.26 (SD=12.83) years old for exposed and unexposed groups respectively) were recruited and ascertained for exposure. Urinary mercury concentrations for exposed group were higher than the referent group (mean 81.18 (SD=46) mcgHg/g-creatinine and 5.14(SD=2.73) mcgHg/g-creatinine respectively) (p<0.05). Symptoms such as cough, chest tightness, tremor of hands, tremor of tongue, tremor of eyelid and trouble of walking were significantly more prevalent in exposed (p<0.05) than non exposed.Discussion
Body burden caused by mercury affects not only miner but also the community surrounding the mining area. Exposure to even lower amount of mercury may bring about significant health effects. Therefore there is a need for stakeholders to raise the community awareness on mercury effects and its preventive measures.