What impact do the minerals in our soil, air and water have on humans? Will understanding our geology give more insight into alleviating health problems and preventing illnesses and hazards?
Medical Geology, an emerging multi- and cross-disciplinary, field of science dealing with the impact of the geologic materials and processes on the incidence and spatial/temporal distribution of human and animal diseases aims to answer these questions.
As an institution that strives to be a pioneer, always at the forefront of new discoveries and innovations in science, engineering and technology, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) will host the first International Symposium on Medical Geology in Africa (ISMGAf) on Wednesday, 26 March 2014.
According to Prof Hassina Mouri, a Professor in Geology at UJ, historically, the two disciplines, namely the geological sciences and the medical sciences were regarded as completely independent fields. However, recent advances in science and technology have proven that the geology of an area can have a direct impact on the regional input of elements and nanoparticles of minerals into soil, air and water.
In turn these inputs, depending on composition and concentrations, may result in beneficial or harmful health effects in humans, animals and/or plants. By understanding the geological history of our environment in general, we will contribute towards a better and deeper insight into our understanding and mitigation of a range of natural hazards that affect our society.
“Although there is a growing interest in Medical Geology in the world, it is in Africa that application of research results would be most relevant. However, it is also in Africa that this field is least developed. Considering the possible significance of the health problems related to geological materials and processes in African countries in general, we believe that it is time to bring together experts from various fields of science, including geoscientists, toxicologists, epidemiologists, medical experts, public health scientists, biotechnologists, biochemists and biologists in order to discuss the possible sources as well as the fate and impacts of geological factors and materials on the development of human and animal diseases,” says Prof Mouri.
The overarching goal of ISMGAf is to provide a platform for discussions and development of research programmes and training of postgraduate students in this emerging field of science.
“We believe that these discussions will lead to a better characterization and understanding of the occurrences of trace elements and toxic compounds in the air, groundwater, soil and rocks and will help to explain patterns of diseases such as various cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and osteoporosis, to name a few,” adds Prof Mouri.
The symposium is sponsored by the University of Johannesburg (UJ), the Geological Society of South Africa (GSSA), the International Union of Geological Science (IUGS), the International Medical Geology Association (IMGA) and the British Geological Survey (BGS).