Impact of Artisanal Gold Mining on Human Health and the Environment in the Batouri Gold District, East Cameroon

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Abstract

There is no Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) system for the mining sector in Cameroon, and miners are exposed to numerous health and safety risks inherent from Artisanal Gold Mining (AGM) activity. Also very few studies have addressed the health problems in AGM in Cameroon. This study seeks to create an awareness of the health and environmental issues surrounding the mining sector in Cameroon so as to foster its development. It was a cross-sectional, observational, and communitybased study involving 273 respondents from three different communities. Questionnaires and interviews were used to collect data. OHS risk assessment was conducted through direct observation and inspection of five different workplaces. Blood samples were collected and analyzed for the presence of mercury and lead. Gold miners in Batouri are exposed to the risk of physical injuries, respiratory conditions, diarrheal conditions, psychotic disorders, dermatophyte infections, helminthic infestations, malaria and musculoskeletal problems. The most common health problems among miners are musculoskeletal disorders (35.6%), malaria (26.4%) and hernias (14.9%), while malaria (18.7%) and musculoskeletal disorders (15.4%) are common among stakeholders. The mean blood mercury and lead levels among miners is 2.27 ± 8.85 μg/L and 12.73 ± 32.73 μg/L respectively, and 9.1% of them are chronically intoxicated with mercury, reporting ≥ 4 symptoms possibly related to mercury intoxication. The major environmental problems are deforestation, land degradation, water pollution, air pollution and water-logged pits. AGM in Batouri, therefore, has a negative impact on human health and environmental sustainability.

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