J Korean Med Sci.  2008 Jun;23(3):452-458. 10.3346/jkms.2008.23.3.452.

Investigation on Health Effects of an Abandoned Metal Mine

  • 1Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Suwon, Korea.
  • 2Department of Preventive Medicine, Dankook University College of Medicine, Cheonan, Korea. hojang@dku.edu
  • 3Department of Environmental Health, Graduate School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.
  • 4Department of Preventive Medicine, Ajou University School of Medicine, Suwon, Korea.
  • 5National Institute of Environmental Research, Incheon, Korea.
  • 6Masan Samsung Hospital, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Masan, Korea.
  • 7Changwon Fatima Hospital, Changwon, Korea.
  • 8Eulji University Hospital, Daejeon, Korea.
  • 9Korean Institute of Science and Technology, Seoul, Korea.
  • 10Catholic University of Daegu, Daegu, Korea.
  • 11Department of Preventive Medicine, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.


To investigate potential health risks associated with exposure to metals from an abandoned metal mine, the authors studied people living near an abandoned mine (n=102) and control groups (n=149). Levels of cadmium, copper, arsenic, lead, and zinc were measured in the air, soil, drinking water, and agricultural products. To assess individual exposure, biomarkers of each metal in blood and urine were measured. beta2-microglobulin, alpha1-microglobulin, and N-acetyl-beta-glucosaminidase and bone mineral density were measured. Surface soil in the study area showed 2-10 times higher levels of metals compared to that of the control area. Metal concentrations in the groundwater and air did not show any notable differences between groups. Mean concentrations of cadmium and copper in rice and barley from the study area were significantly higher than those of the control area (p<0.05). Geometric means of blood and urine cadmium in the study area were 2.9 microgram/L and 1.5 microgram/g Cr, respectively, significantly higher than those in the control area (p<0.05). There were no differences in the levels of urinary markers of early kidney dysfunction and bone mineral density. The authors conclude that the residents near the abandoned mine were exposed to higher levels of metals through various routes.


Abandoned Metal Mine; Health Risk; Biological Markers; Kidney Dysfunction

MeSH Terms

Environmental Exposure
*Environmental Monitoring
*Food Contamination
Middle Aged
Oryza sativa
Risk Factors
Soil Pollutants/analysis
Water Pollutants, Chemical/analysis


  • Fig. 1 Map of the study area. The study area is located at the southern coast of Gyeongsangnam-do. The exposed area, B village, is located at the mouth of a small stream at the creek opening to Goseong bay. Two abandoned copper mine sites (*A and *B) are located at the upstream of the B village.

  • Fig. 2 Concentration-gradient of cadmium in study area soil. Cadmium in soil shows two hot spots by concentration gradient graphics. One, the strongest, coincides with the entrance of the abandoned mine (A), and the other, smaller one, located at the mine tailing dam (B). Thus, the source of cadmium in the soil in this area is the abandoned mine. Unit, mg/kg; *, abandoned mine;●, household.


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