Human Health Risks, Environmental and Ecosystem Damage Associated with Contamination of Used Motor Oil at Auto-mechanic Villages in Ghana (2016-2017)


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—an auto-mechanic village—is 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 Description

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 polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) pollution in soils, drinking water resources and food crops within and near Suame Magazine, a cluster of hundreds of auto-mechanic workshops 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.

Anticipated Outcomes

We expect valuable research publications from this project, specifically for students who may pursue this as an independent or MSc thesis project. Depending on the heterogeneous nature of the team we may set up a symposium or workshop at Duke 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.


Fall 2016 – Summer 2017


Study of Auto Mechanics in Ghana Reveals Health Hazards

This Team in the News

Auto Mechanics Keep Vehicles on the Road in Ghana, But Are They Putting Themselves at Risk?

Kenan-supported Project Investigates Auto Repair Health Hazards in Ghana

Additional support for this project is provided by the Silver Family Kenan Institute for Ethics Fund in Support of Bass Connections.


Faculty/Staff Team Members

Fred Boadu, Pratt School - Civil & Environmental Engineering*
Dennis Clements, School of Medicine - Pediatrics - Infectious Diseases*
Suzanne Katzenstein, Kenan Institute for Ethics

Graduate Team Members

Naa Adoley Allotey, Global Health and Cultural Anthropology
Nana Young, Bioethics and Science Policy

Undergraduate Team Members

Jason Dinh, Environmental Sciences (BS)
Prathibha Juturu, Environmental Engineering(BSE)
Natalie Moszczynski, Global Health (AB), History (AB2)
Jasmine Oon Mei Tan, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB)

Community Team Members

Marian Nkansah, KNUST
Harry Tagbor, KNUST

* denotes team leader