Calls for action as South African communities are exposed to toxic dust, water

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Waste dug up more than a century ago from one of the world’s largest gold deposits in South Africa is leaking a toxic cocktail of chemicals into the ground.

It has left communities exposed to radiation, contaminated dust and polluted water. What’s worse? It is already leading to life-threatening health conditions like tuberculosis and cancer.

But while the world consumed the gold from South,  largely ignored is the legacy of toxic mine waste, which piles up in hundreds of radioactive dumps and dams that contain uranium and other dangerous metals near the homes of more than a million people.

Studies have found radiation levels in Tudor Shaft up to 13 times above the regulatory limit, The Globe and Mail reports. And this is far from an isolated case.

An estimated 1.6 million people in mining districts around Johannesburg live within a few hundred metres of radioactive sites.

Many of the mines were abandoned by their owners and nobody takes responsibility for them. Scientists and official commissions have issued warnings for decades about the health risks, but the risks were neglected by South African governments during the apartheid era and even after the end of apartheid in 1994.

Those at greatest risk are the poorest of the poor. They live in shacks and can’t afford to move. Many are pleading with the government to move them to safer places, but only a few have been relocated.