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Health Assessment of Artisanal Gold Miners in Indonesia

Small scale miners use mercury to extract gold from ore in many countries. An environmental and health assessment was performed in Indonesia in two regions, Galangan in Central Kalimantan and Talawaan in Northern Sulawesi. The environmental assessment showed severe mercury contamination of the sediments, and increased mercury levels in local fish. For the health investigation 281 volunteers were recruited and examined by a standardized questionnaire, a neurological examination and neuro-psychological tests. A medical score was used consisting of significant factors of mercury intoxication. Mercury exposed workers showed typical symptoms of mercury intoxication, such as movement disorders (ataxia, tremor, dysdiadochokinesia, etc.). Blood, urine and hair samples were taken from any participant and analyzed for mercury. The mercury concentration in the biomonitors was high, partly extreme high in the working population, increased in the population living in the same habitat and low in the control group. By a standard protocol which includes a combination of threshold values of mercury in the biomonitors and a medical sum score the diagnosis of chronic mercury intoxication was made for highly burdened workers (amalgam smelters) in 55% in Sulawesi and in 62% in Kalimantan. Less exposed mineral processors and the general population in the mining areas were also intoxicated to a high percentage.

Additional Info

S Bose-O’Reilly, G Drasch, C Beinhoff, S Rodrigues-Filho, G Roider, B Lettmeier, A Maydl, S Maydl, U Siebert
Publication Year
Associated Partners
UMIT – University for Health Sciences, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, University of Brasília CDS-UnB, Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health
Publishing Institution Webpage
Data Source Classification
Academic Study
Research Type
Research Methodology
Thematic Tags
Social, Health and Safety, Environmental, Mercury, Pollution, Water
South Asia
Last Updated
November 18, 2020