Lead poisoning among male juveniles due to illegal mining: A case series from South Africa

Thokozani Patrick Mbonane, Angela Mathee, André Swart, Nisha Naicker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Illegal mining is a major public health and societal concern. Recent scientific evidence indicates elevated blood–lead levels in illegal gold miners and associated communities. Yet, there is little research in this regard from low-to middle-income countries (LMICs), where illegal mining is growing. This case series is extracted from a cross-sectional study of lead exposure in incarcerated juveniles in greater Johannesburg. From survey records (blood–lead levels and questionnaires), three males had elevated blood–lead levels and presented with health conditions and behavioural problems putatively linked with lead poisoning. Based on the record review, all three juveniles were in a secure facility due to illegal mining-related activities. All three cases had high blood–lead levels and demonstrated a tendency toward aggressive or violent behaviour. They also presented with conditions associated with lead poisoning, such as anaemia, respiratory illness, abdominal disorders, and musculoskeletal conditions. Juveniles involved in illegal mining are at risk of exposure to heavy metals such as lead, and there is a need for relevant preventative action and health care programmes in this group.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6838
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • Artisanal and small-scale gold mining
  • Elevated blood levels
  • Environmental health
  • Illegal mining
  • Para-occupational

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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