Hazards identified and the need for health risk assessment in the South African mining industry

Although mining plays a prominent role in the economy of South Africa, it is associated with many chemical hazards. Exposure to dust from mining can lead to many pathological effects depending on mineralogical composition, size, shape and levels and duration of exposure. Mining and processing of minerals also result in occupational exposure to toxic substances such as platinum, chromium, vanadium, manganese, mercury, cyanide and diesel particulate. South Africa has set occupational exposure limits (OELs) for some hazards, but mine workers are still at a risk. Since the hazard posed by a mineral depends on its physiochemical properties, it is recommended that South Africa should not simply adopt OELs from other countries but rather set her own standards based on local toxicity studies. The limits should take into account the issue of mixtures to which workers could be exposed as well as the health status of the workers. The mining industry is also a source of contamination of the environment, due inter alia to the large areas of tailings dams and dumps left behind. Therefore, there is need to develop guidelines for safe land-uses of contaminated lands after mine closure.

Authors: Utembe W, Faustman EM, Matatiele P, Gulumian M. ;Full Source: Human & Experimental Toxicology. 2015 Dec;34(12):1212-21. doi: 10.1177/0960327115600370. ;