Potential health effects of cyanide use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Burkina Faso

Knoblauch, A. M. and Farnham, A. and Ouoba, J. and Zanetti, J. and Müller, S. and Jean-Richard, V. and Utzinger, J. and Wehrli, B. and Brugger, F. and Diagbouga, S. and Winkler, M. S.. (2020) Potential health effects of cyanide use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Burkina Faso. Journal of cleaner production, 252. p. 119689.

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Official URL: https://edoc.unibas.ch/75598/

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The artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector in Burkina Faso increasingly employs cyanideleaching to exploit the natural resource gold. The long-term consequences of chronic cyanide exposure inhumans have yet to be fully elucidated. Meanwhile, the local health and development actors are facingimmediate, unfamiliar challenges. The aim of this study was to deepen the understanding of cyanideexposure pathways, potential human exposure and associated health effects in ASGM communities inorder to tailor health promotion and sustainable development recommendations for local actors.In April and May 2017, a cross-sectional epidemiological study was carried out in three ASGM sites inBurkina Faso. Three exposure groups were included: (i) miners using cyanide; (ii) miners who do not usecyanide; and (iii) ASGM community members not directly involved in mining. A questionnaire wasadministered to all study participants, followed by afinger prick blood sample to determine blood lactatelevel as a proxy indicator for cyanide exposure. Overall, 279 individuals participated (99 cyanide-usingminers, 90 non-cyanide using miners and 90 community members not involved in mining activities).Mean blood lactate levels were significantly higher in miners using cyanide (4.7 mmol/L, 95% confidenceinterval (CI) 3.8e5.6 mmol/L), compared to non-cyanide using miners (3.4 mmol/L, 95% CI 2.9e3.7 mmol/L) and other community members not involved in mining activities (2.8 mmol/L, 95% CI 2.4e3.2 mmol/L).Multiple linear regression found loss of short-term memory reported by participants associated withhigher blood lactate level.In view of ourfindings, we conclude that the use of cyanide in Burkina Faso's ASGM sector is associatedwith potential negative health effects. Hence, specific public health interventions are warranted, such asraising awareness among miners of the risks of cyanide use, promotion of protective measures andstrengthening of health sector capacities to recognize and manage mining-related health issues and lawenforcement.
Faculties and Departments:09 Associated Institutions > Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) > Former Units within Swiss TPH > Health Impact Assessment (Utzinger)
UniBasel Contributors:Knoblauch, Astrid and Farnham, Andrea and Utzinger, Jürg and Winkler, Mirko
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:05 Mar 2020 09:56
Deposited On:05 Mar 2020 09:56

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