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New study of the health of mining communities shows adverse impacts

Published:Friday | January 15, 2016 | 1:00 AM

A health survey of three Jamaican communities exposed to mining and quarrying found that the operations were having adverse impacts of varying degrees on community health.

Residents living in close proximity to mining or quarrying, for example, were almost six times more likely to suffer from asthma than residents in non-exposed communities. The asthma risk, according to the study, was higher in Bull Bay than Hayes or New Town. A resident of Ten Miles, Bull Bay, was 11 times more likely to have asthma than a resident of a non-exposed community.

The most severe impact the survey recorded was for allergic conjunctivitis - mining/quarrying communities were 12 times more likely to experience this complaint. The lowest impact was for headache, but respondents also reported increased irritability, anxiety, depression, insecurity, and anger towards the polluter in mining/quarrying communities.

JET commissioned the study as part of its Strengthening the Capacity of Jamaican Communities to Protect Their Environmental Rights project, funded by the Inter-American Foundation. The survey was led by Dr Homero Silva, professor of public health, environment and climate change at the University of Technology, and it was carried out between September and November 2015. The communities studied were Hayes and New Town in Clarendon and Ten Miles, Bull Bay in St Thomas. Two communities not exposed to mining or quarrying that were studied were Lionel Town in Clarendon and Albion in St Thomas.

Just over 56 per cent of the exposed communities rated their air quality as unacceptable, compared to seven per cent in the non-exposed study areas.