Introduction: Artisanal gold mining is an economic activity that is done primarily in low-income countries. During this activity, mercury is used for the recovery of gold, which has various ways of affecting human health, especially by inhalation of mercury vapor. Aim: describe the mechanisms of exposure to mercury from people working in artisanal mining of gold, on the boards of Abangares, Costa Rica, 2015-2016. Materials and methods: A questionnaire was applied to learn about risk factors. In addition, a checklist was used to observe the process of artisanal gold mining. Finally, it was made the measurement of atmospheric mercury concentrations in the workplace to learn the limits of mercury to which people were exposed. Results: The measurements indicated that release of mercury vapor is generated during the burning process, and the personal protective equipment was not suitable during the conduct of mining activity. There are risk factors that increase the risk of mercury poisoning. Conclusions: the participants who work in artisanal gold mining use technology that does not have the necessary requirements to minimize their risks, especially the retort and its function to prevent the escape of mercury.

Keywords: artisanal mining, environmental health, mercury exposition, occupational exposure