2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 10:10 AM


FINKELMAN, Robert B., U.S.Geol Survey, MS 956 National Center, Reston, VA 20192, rbf@usgs.gov

Medical geology has been promoted through a series of short courses, workshops, and lectures in more than 30 countries. In many of these venues we have encountered unique and interesting medical applications of geology. In South Africa, Veterinary Geology, the impacts of geology on animal health, is a critical concern to both farmers and managers of the hugely important wildlife game reserves. It is believed that nutrients and other elements in the soil affect the health, behavior, and fecundity of the animals. Nutrient deficient soils may be the principal causative factor in a devastating endemic osteoarthritic disease that affects two-thirds of the women in Maputaland, South Africa. Also in Africa, potentially harmful rocks, minerals and other materials are being used to alter traditional medicines, generally derived from herbs and animals but sometimes from rocks and minerals. Chemical and mineralogical characterization could be used to help ensure purity of the traditional medicines. In Asia there is a focus on the beneficial aspects of medical geology. Mobilization of iodine during residential coal combustion in China may prevent iodine deficiency disease. In Japan, hot springs are classified by their chemistry and are prescribed by physicians as cures for a wide range of physical ailments such as (such as muscle and joint pain, hemorrhoids, burns, gout, etc.). Medical geology is being considered in many countries to help address a variety of occupational health problems such as mercury poisoning from artisinal gold mining in South America, Africa, and Asia, and miners'pneumoconiosis and silicosis. Undoubtedly, additional applications of medical geology will emerge as the concept is brought to the attention of geoscientists in other countries.