Xenobiotics and heavy metals in Ghana

Project summary

The project addresses dispersal and effects of heavy metals and xenobiotic substances in the Ghanaian environment, primarily from rapidly increasing activities in informal economic sectors like artisanal mining (ASM) and management of waste electronic and electric equipment (WEEE). Earlier local-scale investigations and studies at known polluted sites prove the problem is important, but little systematic and dependable data exist on larger scale. Although ASM activities have been sought regulated since 1989, the efforts have in many studies been evalu-ated as ineffective, and awareness is low on individual and community level.

The project combines measurement of background concentrations in soil, water and air across the country with measurements of high temporal and spatial resolution in intensive study areas with known pollution sources. Different scales and types of models are used.
The project includes high resolution data from UAV (drone) borne sensors and remote sensing. The aim is to describe the dispersal of emissions from different sources, and the relative contribution to concentration levels and trends in background areas at country scale. The output will be used to assess existing and future effects on human health, ecosystems, and food production. Social science research is included to investigate how access to information and knowledge can be used to raise awareness, remove barriers for adaptation of better practices, and develop better risk handling strategies at individual and community level. A participatory approach is used.

The project will increase the competences at KNUST in conducting large-scale interdisciplinary field studies and using multi-scale modelling to address environmental and health risks. For the Ghanaian society, the knowledge will be important for policy development both at state, and district levels, and for stakeholders in the civil society like NGO’s, and producer’s organizations for e.g. cocoa, palm oil, sugar, and fish.

Outputs

Midterm report:

Analysis of country-scale samples is complete (output 1, outcome 3). It seems likely that soil
concentrations have increased significantly in mining communities in Ghana (output 2). We
found severe mercury pollution localized in mining communities (output 1, 2). Consequently,
emphasis will be put on the planned stakeholder seminar, to increase popular dissemination,
and to increase the planned number of scientific publications significantly compared to the 15
mentioned in the original project document (output 8, 9, 10, 2). The findings have also helped
in guiding the development and selection of model tools that will be part of a future model-lab
at KNUST; and the needed training and competence building (output 6). Work has also been
conducted in close cooperation with the communities to understand how information can be
used in risk assessment and risk handling both on individual and community level in ASM
communities (output 5).

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