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3 Jul 2021

Latin America: International Pollutant Elimination Network (IPEN) report reveals high mercury levels in indigenous women living near areas of gold mining

The International Pollutant Elimination Network (IPEN) has launched the report “Mercury Exposure of Women in four Latin American Gold Mining Countries”. 1631 indigenous women of childbearing age from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela participated in the research. All of them leave near from areas where gold is mined using mercury. The women of the Bolivian indigenous Eyiyo Quibo and Portachuelo people had, by far, the highest levels of the metal. The report reveals that 58.8% of them exceeded the threshold established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of 1 part per million (1 ppm), a level at which harmful effects begin to occur in the development of fetuses, and that 68.8% of the women exceeded the level of 0.58 ppm, the lowest concentration in which there are recognizable negative impacts on the fetus. What these communities have in common is a diet based mainly on fish caught in rivers that are in contact with mines where gold is extracted. Despite national bans on mercury use in gold extraction in some of the countries studied, the practice continues and regionally fish are contaminated by historical and current mercury contamination from mining activities.