For tens of thousands of people in Western Kenya, gold mining is a way of making a living.
On informal mines across the region, women use mercury to bring out the gold. But a recent study conducted by a network of international charities has found that the chemical could be slowly killing them - and affecting the wider community.
Mombasa, Kenya (CNN)On a hot afternoon at a sprawling settlement on the outskirts of Mombasa, Phyllis Omido makes her rounds.
For close to a decade, Omido has been visiting the Owino Uhuru village, monitoring the various illnesses, deaths, and miscarriages that have occurred since a nearby smelter contaminated the village's air and water with lead.
NYATIKE, Kenya (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Scorching sun beats down on half a dozen women as they carry large sacks of crushed ore on their backs at the Osiri-Matanda gold mine near Kenya’s border with Tanzania.
On wooden tables, they sieve the powdered ore into metal pans, add mercury, and heat the mixture over a charcoal fire. The air fills with fumes as the liquid metal evaporates - leaving behind a lump of gold.
There is the kind of lead poisoning that creeps into water supplies, builds up in children’s blood streams, and, if sustained, will impair their brains. And then there is the kind, much rarer, that makes fully grown adults drop dead.