Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Moya P.M., Arce G.J., Leiva C:, Vega A.S., Gutiérrez S., Adaros H., Muñoz L., Pastén P.A., Cortés S. (2019)

An integrated study of health, environmental and socioeconomic indicators in a mining-impacted community exposed to metal enrichment

Revista : Environmental Geochemistry and Health
Volumen : 41
Número : 6
Páginas : 2505-2519
Tipo de publicación : ISI Ir a publicación


The occurrence of toxic metals and metalloids associated with mine tailings is a serious public health concern for communities living in mining areas. This work explores the relationship between metal occurrence (e.g., spatial distribution in street dusts), human health indicators (e.g., metals in urine samples, lifestyle and self-reported diseases) and socioeconomic status (SES) using Chanaral city (in northern Chile) as study site, where a copper mine tailing was disposed in the periurban area. This study model may shed light on the development of environmental and health surveillance plans on arid cities where legacy mining is a sustainability challenge. High concentrations of metals were found in street dust, with arsenic and copper concentrations of 24 +/- 13 and 607 +/- 911 mg/kg, respectively. The arsenic concentration in street dust correlated with distance to the mine tailing (r = – 0.32, p-value = 0.009), suggesting that arsenic is dispersed from this source toward the city. Despite these high environmental concentrations, urinary levels of metals were low, while 90% of the population had concentrations of inorganic arsenic and its metabolites in urine below 33.2 mu g/L, copper was detected in few urine samples (< 6%). Our results detected statistically significant differences in environmental exposures across SES, but, surprisingly, there was no significant correlation between urinary levels of metals and SES. Despite this, future assessment and control strategies in follow-up research or surveillance programs should consider environmental and urinary concentrations and SES as indicators of environmental exposure to metals in mining communities.