Duke researcher Helena Frischtak, (right front) administers psychological assessments with a pair of Peruvian children during a study of mercury contamination near small-scale gold mining. Credit: William Pan, Duke University Small-scale gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon poses a health hazard not only to the miners and communities near where mercury is used to extract gold from ore, but also to downstream communities hundreds of kilometers away where people eat mercury-contaminated river fish as part of their diet.
In these downstream communities where fish is an important part of the diet, children under 12 with the highest levels of mercury in their blood and hair suffer a 4.68-point loss in I.Q., researchers report. They are also more anemic, lacking adequate hemoglobin to carry oxygen in their blood.
Both findings come from a series of studies conducted by Duke University scientists in and around the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve in the Madre De Dios region of Peru. They appear in a pair of papers published May 20 in GeoHealth and May 28 in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology .
The studies show that common assumptions about mercury exposure should be reexamined, and that native people in the region are more vulnerable […]
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