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Tanzania: Child workers at risk from mercury
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Saturday, 20 July 2002
Ten-year Tanzanian children are involved in mining activities including washing of rock and collecting and carrying crushed rock that expose them to serious health risks.
According to a survey by Tanzanian researchers done in Mbeya, Mwanza and Ruvuma, the children are made to work for long hours with little time to rest or play. “Children work in very hazardous conditions, exposing themselves to a number of health problems.”

There were also subtle and indirect health risks where the adverse effects they caused were not immediately noticeable, the report says, adding that this is especially true in the case of exposure to mercury.

The researchers, J.A. Mwami, A.J. Sanga and J. Nyoni said children were exposed to mercury used in the gold amalgamation process, which mercury was also disposed of into nearby rivers, thereby contaminating water sources.

The researchers were on assignment from the Department of Sociology of the University of Dar es Salaam. It is further claimed in the report that the mining sector is plagued by various problems that limit its capacity to be a reliable source of livelihood for many.

The researchers say that it was within this context, that the mining sector in Tanzania was selected for study “because it was suspected to have a high concentration of child labour.”
The study set out to explore the causes and incidence of child labour in the mining sector in Tanzania; examine the working conditions, characteristics and consequences of child labour in the mining sector; and propose tentative measures of intervention to alleviate the child labour problem. Children below the age of 18 accounted for 59 per cent of the total number interviewed and were engaged in different activities related to the mining sector.

There were fewer girls (19.7%) than boys (80%) involved in child labour in this sector. The research findings attributed this to the fact so many were aged 14 to 17- the ages when most children completed class 7 or secondary education respectively.

Faced with limited chances of joining secondary education and vocational training, working in the mines was for many the only way to earn a living.
The researchers noted that children working in the restaurants, bars and shops in the mining areas, worked much longer hours - 10 hours per day on average - compared with the children working in the mines. They also noted that the tools and equipment used in the mining process were rudimentary and required muscle power.

Source: Child Labour News Service
Website: http://www.childlabournews.info/
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