Our Work

Human Health Risks, Environmental and Ecosystem Damage Associated with Contamination of Used Motor Oil at Auto-mechanic villages in Ghana


2016-07-01 17:01:26 - 2017-12-15 17:01:26

Project Objectives

In underdeveloped nations, advancement in economic and human development depends on growth in the transportation sector, which is dominated by imported used automobiles. In these nations, usually land%u2014an auto-mechanic village%u2014is allocated strictly for repair and service of automobiles. There are hundreds of such auto-mechanic villages in many cities in Ghana and Africa due to increasing human population and urban growth. In all these villages, auto-mechanics dispose used motor oil onto the ground, affecting streams, drinking water aquifers and the ecosystem. Used motor oil can be harmful to human health, the environment and the ecosystem, and can contaminate the food chain. There is an ethical need to promote behavioral changes by the mechanics in disposal and interaction with used
motor oil.

Project Opportunities

This project team will collaborate with a team of faculty and students from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to assess the extent and levels of heavy metals and PAH pollution in soils, drinking water resources and food crops within and near Suame Magazine, a cluster of hundreds of auto-mechanic workshop in in the vicinity of Kumasi. The joint team will investigate hair samples, the potential of mechanics being exposed to heavy metals and PAH and possible effects on their health. The findings will be used in developing an educational and awareness program by directly engaging and interacting with the mechanics.

Students will be involved in all phases of the project (sampling, measurements and analysis of heavy metals and PAH, education and awareness campaign). Students will have the opportunity to interact with KNUST students and the mechanics, and understand how local cultural and social beliefs play important roles and may subsequently affect potential solutions to engineering and/or scientific problems. In the Spring/Summer 2017, the team will travel to Ghana for the field campaign. Students with backgrounds in environmental science, public policy, international studies, engineering and global health are especially encouraged to apply.

We expect valuable research publications from this project, specifically for students who may pursue this as an independent or MSc thesis project. Depending of the heterogeneous nature of the team we may set up a symposium or a workshop at Duke campus addressing issues of the nexus of poverty, human and ecosystem health and ethics. As a potential outcome, we will set up an educational and awareness campaign to save future lives.

Project Application Process

All interested students must complete the Bass Central Application process, located here: https://bassconnections.duke.edu/content/common-application. When you have completed that process, please send an email to Lysa.mackeen@duke.edu with the title of the project and "application completed" in the subject line.

Project Application Deadline


Project Status


Share This