Heavy Metal Pollution from Migori Gold Mining Area, Kenya: Health Implications for Consumers of Fish and Water

Veronica Ngure, Francis Lelo, Benson Obwanga


Potentially harmful elements (PHE) also referred to as heavy metals (HM) were analyzed in water, fish, nails and scalp hair in children between 5 and 10 years in Migori gold mining belt, Kenya. The samples were digested using acids and analyzed by atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS). The results revealed that the continued consumption of water and fish contaminated from gold mining activities within the vicinity, have significantly increased the concentrations of selected PHE in the nails and scalp hair. There was correlation between the HM in the water and fish and those established in the nails and scalp hair of the children going to school in the gold mine Region, Kenya. Mercury (Hg) and Arsenic (As) in water showed elevated levels above WHO maximum acceptable level in reported studies. Results showed that concentrations of cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), and lead (Pb) in water were recorded above the permissible limits set by WHO while zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu) were recorded below the permissible limits. Lead (Pd) and cadmium (Cd) concentrations in nails showed elevated levels above those reported in occupationally exposed residents. Concentrations of Pb, Cd, Cr, and Cu were significantly higher (p < 0.05) in the hair samples collected from the polluted area as compared to control area. Older children (10 years) tended to show higher mean concentrations of PHE as compared to the younger ones (5year) within the same area. The research indicate that the children in the study area are exposed to high health risks associated with ingestion of PHE through contaminated ingestion of fish and drinking water from the rivers flowing through the gold mining area. Education and drastic interventions need to be put in place to protect the young generation from multiple health risks associated with gold mining activities in Migori Gold Belt in Kenya.

Keywords: Bioaccumulation; heavy metals; water, human hair; nails, fish matrix

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3186 ISSN (Online)2225-0921

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