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Assessment of risk to human health from simultaneous exposure to multiple contaminants in an artisanal gold mine in Serra Pelada, Pará, Brazil

de Souza, Edna Santos, Texeira, Renato Alves, da Costa, Hercília Samara Cardoso, Oliveira, Fábio Júnior, Melo, Leônidas Carrijo Azevedo, do Carmo Freitas Faial, Kelson, Fernandes, Antonio Rodrigues
The Science of the total environment 2017 v.576 pp. 683-695
United States Environmental Protection Agency, World Health Organization, adults, arsenic, at-risk population, barium, cadmium, children, chromium, cobalt, copper, food safety, gold, human health, humans, ingestion, laws and regulations, lead, mineralization, mining, nickel, normal values, risk, risk assessment, selenium, soil, soil pollution, soil quality, soil sampling, toxic substances, traditional technology, wastes, Brazil
Contamination of soil, water and plants caused by gold mining is of great societal concern because of the risk of environmental pollution and risk to human health. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the risk to human health from ingestion of As, Ba, Co, Cu, Cd, Cr, Ni, Pb, Se and Ni present in soil, sterile and mineralized waste, and water and plants at a gold mine in Serra Pelada, Pará, Brazil. Samples of soil, sterile and mineralized waste, water and plants were collected around an artisanal gold mine located in Serra Pelada. The mean concentrations of potentially toxic elements in the soil were higher than the soil quality reference values as defined in the legislation, which may be attributeable to past mining activities. Water from the area close to the mine exhibited As, Ba and Pb concentrations exceeding the reference values established by the World Health Organization, deemed unfit for human consumption. Plants exhibited high Pb concentrations, representing a food safety risk to the population. The mean hazard index (HI) values were below the acceptable limit (1.0) established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, although the highest HI values observed for adults and children were higher than the respective acceptable limits. Environmental contamination and risk to human health were heterogeneous in the surroundings of the mine. Mitigation strategies need to be adopted to decrease the risks of contamination to the environment and to the local population.