Community-based research on the environmental and human health impacts of a laterite nickel mine and smelter in Sorowako, Indonesia

Glynn, Tracy (2006) Community-based research on the environmental and human health impacts of a laterite nickel mine and smelter in Sorowako, Indonesia. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Community-based research between Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Indigenous Sorowako Association (KW AS) assessed the environmental and potential human health impacts of an operational three-decades old laterite nickel mine and smelter in Sorowako, Indonesia. An active air sampler and health questionnaire were used in this study to assess seasonal and diurnal patterns of air quality and prevalent health conditions. Air was sampled with the use of a high volume air sampler to determine average total suspended particulates (TSP) and airborne metal concentrations. Twelve-hour air samples were collected over approximately five days and five nights during both the dry and rainy seasons in six communities. The six communities were located at different distances and directions from the nickel mines and smelter. Air samples were also collected at a reference site located further away from the smelter during the rainy season only. The composition of various metals was analysed by Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). Twenty-four hour dust fall accumulation in approximately 20 households in the seven communities previously mentioned, as well as in 20 homes located on Lake Matano were recorded with an area standardized Kim wipe swipe. Communities closer to and downwind from the smelter had significantly higher mean TSP values in the day of the dry season than communities further away from the smelter. Average concentrations of nickel, cobalt and chromium were higher in the day than in the night in the dry season in communities closer to and downwind from the smelter. There was only a slight significant regression of airborne nickel concentration with increasing distance from the smelter in the day of the dry season (Linear r²= 0.276, p=0.006, Linear r²= 0.066, p=0.207) but not in the night of the dry season. Dust fall accumulation did not vary significantly among the communities, except in Kampung Baru, a site also exposed to sawmill dust. A confidential health questionnaire administered by community volunteers assessed potential links between prevalent health conditions and mining and smelting in the area. Twenty households were selected in a convenience sampling in the eight communities where dust fall accumulation was also studied. Adult and child versions of the questionnaire focused on respiratory and skin health conditions but also surveyed prevalence of other illnesses, and health determinants. Questionnaire responses showed that some health conditions typical of exposure to airborne particulates and nickel, such as asthma, rhinitis, and skin tumours, were more prevalent in areas closer to and downwind from nickel mining and smelting compared to Malili, a community located further away from the mines and smelter. Several positive correlations between ambient air pollution levels, dust fall accumulation in households, and health conditions typically found in nickel industrial areas suggested a potential human health impact of mining and smelting. The community-based investigation provided a foundation for the community to continually monitor, assess, and address environmental and health concerns.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 12248
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 71-187).
Department(s): Science, Faculty of > Environmental Science
Date: 27 January 2006
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Indonesia
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Nickel mines and mining--Environmental aspects--Indonesia; Nickel mines and mining--Health aspects--Indonesia; Smelting--Environmental aspects--Indonesia; Smelting--Health aspects--Indonesia

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