Health risk assessment of heavy metals in soils from Witwatersrand Gold Mining Basin, South Africa
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The study evaluates the health risk caused by heavy metals to the inhabitants of a gold mining area. In this study, 56 soil samples from five mine tailings and 17 from two mine villages were collected and analyzed for Asernic (As), Lead (Pb), Mercury (Hg), Cadmium (Cd), Chromium (Cr), Cobalt (Co), Nickel (Ni), Copper (Cu) and Zinc (Zn) using ICP-MS. Measured concentrations of these heavy metals were then used to calculate the health risk for adults and children. Their concentrations were such that Cr > Ni > As > Zn > Cu > Co > Pb > Hg > Cd, with As, Cr and Ni higher than permissible levels. For the adult population, the Hazard Index value for all pathways was found to be 2.13, making non-carcinogenic effects significant to the adult population. For children, the Hazard Index value was 43.80, a value >>1, which poses serious non-carcinogenic effect to children living in the gold mining area. The carcinogenic risk was found to be 1.7 × 10−4 implying that 1 person in every 5882 adults may be affected. In addition, for children, in every 2725 individuals, 1 child may be affected (3.67 × 10−4). These carcinogenic risk values were both higher than acceptable values.