Mercury exposure in a high fish eating Bolivian Amazonian population with intense small-scale gold-mining activities.

Research paper by Flavia Laura FL Barbieri, Amandine A Cournil, Jacques J Gardon

Indexed on: 26 Feb '10Published on: 26 Feb '10Published in: International journal of environmental health research


Methylmercury exposure in Amazonian communities through fish consumption has been widely documented in Brazil. There is still a lack of data in other Amazonian countries, which is why we conducted this study in the Bolivian Amazon basin. Simple random sampling was used from a small village located in the lower Beni River, where there is intense gold mining and high fish consumption. All participants were interviewed and hair samples were taken to measure total mercury concentrations. The hair mercury geometric mean in the general population was 3.02 microg/g (CI: 2.69-3.37; range: 0.42-15.65). Age and gender were not directly associated with mercury levels. Fish consumption showed a positive relation and so did occupation, especially small-scale gold mining. Hair mercury levels were lower than those found in Brazilian studies, but still higher than in non-exposed populations. It is necessary to assess mercury exposure in the Amazonian regions where data is still lacking, using a standardized indicator.