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concentration of production increases systemic risk, as illustrated by recent spikes in international commodity prices due to poor harvests in certain regions (Puma et al. 2015; The Global Food Security Programme 2015). Due to climate change, such events may become more likely (Porter et al. 2014). Furthermore, the growing prevalence of certain crops in global food supplies has contributed to the increasing consumption of nutritionally poor food, some of which is highly processed (processed in a nutrient-poor manner), with serious consequences for human health (Khoury et al. 2014).


8.5.2 Human Health and land management 8


Health effects from mining Adverse human health issues are also associated with mining and ore processing. While such operations generate employment and provide essential fuels and raw materials, residues such as lead affect air quality, posing a hazard especially to children, who are more likely to ingest such dust (Taylor et al. 2013b). The mining of some rare minerals, such as tantalum, often involves exploitation and even slavery (Gold, Trautrims and Trodd 2015).


Mining waste is one of the world’s largest waste streams by volume, with the potential to cause significant environmental impacts, including abrupt and extensive land use change (Sonter et al. 2014; Murguía 2015; Hudson-Edwards 2016; Sonter et al. 2017). The Global Waste Management Outlook (UNEP 2015) estimates mining waste to be in the order of 10-20 billion tons per year. Mining waste will probably continue to grow, since companies are now turning to lower-grade ores, which typically generate more waste per unit extracted. However, mining waste should also be regarded as a potential resource within a circular economy (Lèbre and Corder 2015). Mining activities generate impacts on ecosystems and lead to soil contamination. Toxic and radioactive dust emissions from mining waste are a relevant health issue in many parts of the world (see Chapter 5). Water pollution also results from mining (acid metalliferous drainage and leakages from tailing management facilities) (see Chapter 9) (Hudson-Edwards 2016). In many parts of Latin America, mining activities have an important impact. For example, artisanal gold mining in the Amazon basin deposited an estimated 3,000-4,000 tonnes of mercury during the late 1980s and early 1990s (Lacerda 2003). Although gold mining has shifted to different parts of the region, mercury contamination is still present in many soils and rivers as a result of land-use change (Lacerda, Bastos and Almeida 2012). This mercury also contributes to atmospheric pollution.


Waste and human health The Global Waste Management Outlook indicates that cities generate between 7 and 10 billion tonnes of waste per year, figures that are expected to rise, even double, in lower-income African and Asian cities by 2030 (UNEP 2015). It also estimates that 3 billion people lack access to adequate waste disposal facilities, which poses health risks (infections, exposure to chemicals, dust) and generates environmental impacts (soil and water pollution, GHG emissions). An estimated 15 million people are operating globally as informal recyclers, many of them in dump sites (Binion and Gutberlet 2012). Identified health risks for these workers include exposure to chemical hazards, infections, musculoskeletal damage and poor mental health (Binion and Gutberlet 2012). Working in organized groups, such as recycling cooperatives in developing countries


220 State of the Global Environment


(e.g. Bolivia and Colombia), has helped to reduce the domestic waste flow to landfills and improved the livelihoods of the recyclers (UNEP 2015). A key step towards reducing the environmental and health impacts of domestic waste is to shift from regarding waste as a health and environmental threat to including a resource management perspective, using waste as a source of raw materials (UNEP 2015).


Soil contamination


Soil health is essential for life, food security and the ecosystems services provided by soils. Many chemicals coming from industrial, urban and agricultural sources end up contaminating soils. In most developed countries, the main direct causes of site contamination are industrial and commercial activity. The extent of these sites can vary considerably, from small parcels of land to large industrial facilities or agricultural areas. Governments in the developed world maintain an inventory of contaminated and remediated sites. More than 2.5 million potentially contaminated sites are located in Europe, of which 342,000 are thought to be actually contaminated. About one-third of these have been identified, and more than 50,000 sites had been successfully remediated by 2014 (van Liedekerke et al. 2014). In the United States of America, the Superfund National Priorities list includes the sites contaminated with complex hazardous substances and pollutants (1,342 in 2016) that impact soil groundwater or surface water and that pose the greatest potential risks to public health and the environment (United States Environmental Protection Agency 2016). In Canada, more than 23,000 contaminated or suspected sites have been identified (Government of Canada 2017).


Developing countries are undergoing significant industrialization and urbanization. In large urban areas, provision of sanitation and drainage is needed as well as adequate governance so that urban waste is disposed of adequately (FAO and Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils [ITPS] 2015). Trace elements contaminate agricultural soil and crops in many Asian countries (Thangavel and Sridevi 2017). In many parts of Latin America intensive use of agricultural inputs contributes to soil contamination (UNEP 2010). In Africa, agrochemicals, mining, spills and improper handling of waste have contaminated soils (Gzik et al. 2003; Kneebone and Short 2010). In the Near East and North Africa, soil contamination is primarily the result of oil production and heavy mining.


Soil and human health The burden of disease of soil-transmitted helminths – a group of parasitic worms including hookworm, ascariasis and trichuriais/whipworm – is substantial, affecting human development and cognitive potential (Bartsch et al. 2016). These are generally acquired by walking barefoot on soil that has been contaminated by human faeces. High-intensity hookworm infection commonly affects both children and adults (Bartsch et al. 2016).


Land contains many trace elements, which enter the human food chain through the raising of crops and animals. Some are essential for good health (e.g. iodine, iron, selenium and zinc), while others are harmful in large quantities (e.g. arsenic and fluoride) (Oliver and Gregory 2015). Soils in mountainous areas often have reduced levels of iodine, and human populations in such areas can face higher health risks, as they are likely to


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