Natural Sciences Faculty Research Professor makes presentation to world audience

Professor Theo Davies

The seriousness of the dangers posed by some of the minerals that humans beings associate with wealth and comfortable living, resulted in one of the experts in diseases associated with mining taking a giant step in at least bringing the issue to the fore. On 11 May 2023, Professor Theo Davies, a Research Professor in the Faculty of Natural Sciences, presented a lecture to a global audience on this subject. The topic of Professor Davies’ presentation was: Combatting the effects of ionising radiation exposure around uranium and gold mining centres in sub-Saharan Africa: focus on sensitive populations. This was part of the Environmental and Health Sciences Consortium (IEHSC) Webinar Series. Professor Davies is a member of the Consortium. Professor Davies strongly argued that “Several possible health effects are associated with human exposure to radiation from uranium, especially among sensitive populations such as pregnant women and children.” Professor Davies said the reason for this was that “all uranium isotopes mainly emit alpha particles that have little penetrating ability, the main radiation hazard from uranium occurs when uranium compounds are ingested or inhaled.”

Professor Davies voiced his worry that “no, or very few epidemiological studies have been undertaken so far in the Witwatersrand basin, despite the massive environmental contamination from uranium mining in that area.

Explaining the purpose of the presentation, Professor Davies highlighted that there are important knowledge gaps on aspects of ionising radiation exposure from uranium and gold mining and milling in Sub-Saharan Africa, with respect to Nigeria and South Africa, “to enable researchers of Medical Geology and related fields to formulate novel, multipronged and proactive approaches to bridge them”. He said the plaguing of the gaps will allow various stakeholders to acquire the requisite data upon which evidence-based interventions could be predicated.