Table of Contents
International Scholarly Research Notices
Volume 2014, Article ID 252148, 37 pages
Review Article

A Systematic Review of Heavy Metals of Anthropogenic Origin in Environmental Media and Biota in the Context of Gold Mining in Ghana

1Environmental Health and Hazards Laboratory, Department of Geography, Western University, 1151 Richmond Street, ON, Canada N6A 5C2
2Department of Environmental Science, School of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast, Ghana
3Biological, Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, Ghana
4Department of Geography, Western University, 1151 Richmond Street, ON, Canada N6A 5C2

Received 16 June 2014; Accepted 10 July 2014; Published 9 November 2014

Academic Editor: Constantine Stalikas

Copyright © 2014 Frederick Ato Armah et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Heavy metal accumulation in the food chain is an issue of global concern because it eventually leads to toxic effects on humans through the water we drink, contaminated soils, crops, and animals. Reports of toxicant levels in environmental media (air, water, and soil) and biota in Ghana were sought in SCOPUS, PubMed, MEDLINE, and EMBASE. Of 1004 bibliographic records identified, 54 studies were included in evidence synthesis. A disproportionately large number of papers (about 80%) focused exclusively on environmental media. Papers focusing on biomonitoring and human health were relatively few. Studies reported a high degree of spatial variability for the concentrations of 8 metals in groundwater. Generally, heavy metal concentrations in soil reported by the studies reviewed were higher than metal concentrations in riverine sediments. Urine and hair were the most common biological markers of heavy metal exposure used by the studies reviewed unlike nails, which were sparingly used. By and large, published results on the levels of heavy metals in goldmine and non-mine workers yielded contradictory results. Mostly, concentrations of heavy metals reported by the studies reviewed for nails were higher than for hair. A high degree of variability in the heavy metal concentrations in human subjects in the studies reviewed is likely due to heterogeneity in physiological states, excretion profiles, and body burdens of individuals. These, in turn, may be a product of genetic polymorphisms influencing detoxification efficiency.