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J Hazard Mater. 2013 Nov 15;262:1048-55. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2012.10.002. Epub 2012 Oct 11.

Environmental arsenic contamination and its health effects in a historic gold mining area of the Mangalur greenstone belt of Northeastern Karnataka, India.

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School of Environmental Studies (SOES), Jadavpur University, Kolkata 700032, India. Electronic address:


This report summarizes recent findings of environmental arsenic (As) contamination and the consequent health effects in a community located near historic gold mining activities in the Mangalur greenstone belt of Karnataka, India. Arsenic contents in water, hair, nail, soil and food were measured by FI-HG-AAS. Elemental analyses of soils were determined by ICP-MS (inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry). Of 59 tube-well water samples, 79% had As above 10 μg L(-1) (maximum 303 μg L(-1)). Of 12 topsoil samples, six were found to contain As greater than 2000 mg kg(-1) possibly indicating the impact of mine tailings on the area. All hair and nail samples collected from 171 residents contained elevated As. Arsenical skin lesions were observed among 58.6% of a total 181 screened individuals. Histopathological analysis of puncture biopsies of suspected arsenical dermatological symptoms confirmed the diagnosis in three out of four patients. Based on the time-course of As-like symptoms reported by the community as well as the presence of overt arsenicosis, it is hypothesized that the primary route of exposure in the study area was via contaminated groundwater; however, the identified high As content in residential soil could also be a significant source of As exposure via ingestion. Additional studies are required to determine the extent as well as the relative contribution of geologic and anthropogenic factors in environmental As contamination in the region. This study report is to our knowledge one of the first to describe overt arsenicosis in this region of Karnataka, India as well as more broadly an area with underlying greenstone geology and historic mining activity.


Arsenic; Arsenical skin lesions; Gold mine; Greenstone; Groundwater; Karnataka

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