Characterization, Spatial Variation and Risk Assessment of Heavy Metals and a Metalloid in Surface Soils in Obuasi, Ghana

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Black Smith Institute
Soil contamination with heavy metals and metalloids has become an increasingly important issue in recent years. Objectives. The present study examines possible contamination of the environment with metals from gold mining activities in Obuasi, Ghana. Methods. Soil samples were collected from commercial and residential areas and tailing dams in Obuasi in order to investigate the extent of lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), cobalt (Co), chromium (Cr), nickel (Ni) and arsenic (As) pollution, create thematic maps showing the extent of heavy metals pollution, identify the sources of pollution, and to assess risks to humans and the surrounding ecological system. Results. Mean concentrations of metals from the study were found in the order of As > Cu > Zn > Cr > Ni > Pb > Co > Hg > Cd. The results showed that all communities were severely polluted with As, and distribution maps highlighted two hot spots at the sulfite treatment plant and Pompura treatment plant tailings dams. Additionally, the levels of Pb, Cu and Zn were elevated around the city center where vehicular traffic is very dense. Principal component analysis indicated that mining activities may have significantly contributed to metal levels in Obuasi soils. The potential ecological risk (RI) indicated that soils in 41% of the communities pose very high risks to the surrounding ecological system, 50% pose considerable risk, and 9% pose a moderate risk. Arsenic and Hg contributed 73 and 15% of the RI, respectively. The average hazard quotient due to soil As exposure was 2.51 ± 1.23 and ingestion of soils in 95% of the communities in the study area could pose non-carcinogenic health risks to children. Moreover, the average cancer risk for children from the communities was 1.13 × 10-3. Based on the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) recommendation for cancer risk of 10-6 to 10-4, the cancer risk for children (> 10-3) was higher in 45% of the studied communities. Conclusions. The central part of the study area is polluted with Pb, Zn and Cu, and As pollution is severe in all of the studied communities. The RI from all study sites revealed very high risk to the ecological system, including mammals. There could be non-cancer and cancer risks to Obuasi residents due to ingestion of As-contaminated soils, and children are particularly vulnerable. Competing Interests. The author declares no competing financial interests
An article published by Black Smith Institute
metals,, mining,, hazard quotient,, thematic maps,, ecological,, cancer risk
Journal of Health & Pollution Vol. 8, No. 19 — September 2018