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Environmental health impacts of East African Rift volcanism

Abstract

The East African Rift Valley (EARV) is a structure of a major order in the Earth’s crust. Accompanying volcanic activity has influenced greatly the nature of the soils and the geochemistry of ground and surface waters, an influence that is reflected in water and food quality. Direct volcanic impacts result from the up-welling of volatile, potentially harmful elements (PHE), such as F, As, and Hg, that dissolve directly into groundwaters. Intense tropical weathering results in clear redistribution of all but the most refractory elements to form distinct zones of micronutrient deficiencies and PHE excesses. Of concern, too, is human exposure to volcanic materials such as dust and clay-enriched soil fractions. Further alteration of the landscape geochemistry is being brought about by pollution from human activities, with increasing health concerns in many ecosystems of the region. This review shows that the unique distribution pattern of trace elements, imprinted by the East African Rift volcanism and modified by weathering and anthropogenic factors, correlates with a number of geochemical diseases in man and animals. It is submitted that accurate diagnoses of these diseases and associated health conditions, and prescription of appropriate remedies, must be founded upon a fundamental understanding of how the elements were naturally distributed in the first place. This can only be realised through the construction of complete geochemical databases for the region.

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Davies, T.C. Environmental health impacts of East African Rift volcanism. Environ Geochem Health 30, 325–338 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10653-008-9168-7

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Keywords

  • East African Rift volcanism
  • Element distribution
  • Geochemical diseases