An Overview of Medical Geology Issues in Australia and Oceania

  • Karin LjungEmail author
  • Annemarie de Vos
  • Angus Cook
  • Philip Weinstein
Part of the International Year of Planet Earth book series (IYPE)


Australia and Oceania together make up some of the oldest and youngest geologic formations on the planet, ranging from rocks dating back to 4,400 million years to newly formed volcanic isles in the Pacific. The health issues related to these diverse geological materials range from those derived from exposure to metals and minerals to volcanic emissions including gas and ash, bushfires, dust storms, as well as health threats posed by natural hazards. With the position of a large part of this region within the Ring of Fire, many Australian and Oceanian lives are impacted upon by the forces related to tectonic movement, including earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. There are also a number of medical geology issues related to the soil in this area. These include geophagy, melioidosis – an infectious disease caused by soil bacteria, and the impacts from ecosystem transformations caused by the disturbance of acid sulfate soils. An example of this is the increase of vector-borne mosquitoes carrying the Ross River virus with the formation of acidic ponds through acid sulfate soil oxidation. The potential adverse health outcomes from disturbing some parts of the land have long been acknowledged by traditional Aboriginal landowners of Australia, who refer to an area particularly rich in uranium and other metals as Sickness Country.


Australia Oceania metals Volcanic eruptions Acid sulfate soils Geophagy Vector-borne diseases Sickness country 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karin Ljung
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Annemarie de Vos
    • 1
  • Angus Cook
    • 1
  • Philip Weinstein
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Population HealthUniversity of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia
  2. 2.Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  3. 3.School of Population HealthUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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