Oral bioaccessibility of metal(loid)s in dust materials from mining areas of northern Namibia

Vojtěch Ettler, Markéta Cihlová, Alice Jarošíková, Martin Mihaljevič, Petr Drahota, Bohdan Kříbek, Aleš Vaněk, Vít Penížek, Ondra Sracek, Mariana Klementová, Zbyněk Engel, Fred Kamona, Ben Mapani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Ore mining and processing in semi-arid areas is responsible for the generation of metal(loid)-containing dust, which is easily transported by wind to the surrounding environment. To assess the human exposure to dust-derived metal(loid)s (As, Cd, Cu, Pb, Sb, Zn), as well as the potential risks related to incidental dust ingestion, we studied mine tailing dust (n = 8), slag dust (n = 5) and smelter dust (n = 4) from old mining and smelting sites in northern Namibia (Kombat, Berg Aukas, Tsumeb). In vitro bioaccessibility testing using extraction in simulated gastric fluid (SGF) was combined with determination of grain-size distributions, chemical and mineralogical characterizations and leaching tests conducted on original dust samples and separated PM10 fractions. The bulk and bioaccessible concentrations of the metal(loid)s were ranked as follows: mine tailing dusts < slag dusts « smelter dusts. Extremely high As and Pb bioaccessibilities in the smelter dusts were caused by the presence of highly soluble phases such as arsenolite (As2O3) and various metal-arsenates unstable under the acidic conditions of SGF. The exposure estimates calculated for an adult person of 70 kg at a dust ingestion rate of 50 mg/day indicated that As, Pb (and also Cd to a lesser extent) grossly exceeded tolerable daily intake limits for these contaminants in the case of slag and smelter dusts. The high risk for smelter dusts has been acknowledged, and the safety measures currently adopted by the smelter operator in Tsumeb are necessary to reduce the staff's exposure to contaminated dust. The exposure risk for the local population is only important at the unfenced disposal sites at Berg Aukas, where the PM10 exhibited high levels of bioaccessible Pb.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-215
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironment international
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioacessibility
  • Dust mineralogy
  • Metal(loid)s
  • Mining
  • Namibia
  • Smelting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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