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The health effects of uranium particles inhaled:

  • Small particles are carried by the inhaled air stream all the way into the alveoli. Here the particles can remain for periods from weeks up to years depending on their solubility.
  • Highly insoluble uranium compounds may remain in the alveoli, whereas soluble uranium compounds may dissolve and pass across the alveolar membranes into the bloodstream, where they may exert systemic toxic effects.
  • In some cases, insoluble particles are absorbed into the body from the alveoli byphagocytosis into the associated lymph nodes.
  • Insoluble” particles may reside in the lungs for years, causing chronic radiotoxicity to be expressed in the alveoli.

(Reference: Water Research Commission Report 12/1/1/2006 entitled “An Assessment of Sources,Pathways, Mechanisms and Risks of Current and Potential Future Pollution of Water and Sediments in Gold-Mining Areas of the Wonderfonteinspruit Catchment.” Report, WRC, H Coetzee et al,  Council forGeosience. 2004. Report No 1214/1/06)

Long-Term Effects Of Mining – Environmental and Water Source Degredation

  • Even though a large number of the world’s rivers are contaminated by heavy metals released from present day and historic mining operations, relatively little is known about the effects on communities that live beside and rely on these rivers for food and livelihood. One of the complications is that the toxicity of many metals is a function of such conditions as redox, pH and water hardness.
  • Elevated salts and metals can also negatively affect the health of animals in many different ways, depending on the species, age, sensitivity, general health and diet of the consumer, among other factors.
  • Some metals, when consumed in excess, can affect organs and the central nervous system, cause reproductive failure or birth defects, and act as cofactors in many other diseases.
  • Certain receptors may be more sensitive than others, depending upon species, age, sex, season, body mass, metabolic rate, general health, diet, behaviour, etc, with younger animals and children being generally more at risk than adults under the same conditions of exposure (WHO).
  • The potential for trans-generational (genetic) impacts of bioaccumulated metals and NORMs (Naturally Occurring Radiactive Materials) on biota exposed above certain thresh-holds.
  • The probability that such latent impacts will only be identified and assessed over the next 100 to 500 years.

(Reference: EIA Report and EMP for AngloGold Ashanti’s West Wits Operations. 2009.)