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International Pollutant Elimination Network (IPEN)

Report “Mercury Exposure of Women in four Latin American Gold Mining Countries” reveals that 66.8% of the indigenous examined presented harmful levels of the metal

"Mercury Exposure of Women in four Latin American Gold Mining Countries", June 2021

...Of the 1631 women of childbearing age who participated in the study, 58.8% exceeded the 1 ppm USEPA threshold level at which negative effects may be detected in the fetus and 66.8% exceeded the 0.58 ppm level which is a recently derived level at which researchers believe negative effects may start to occur....The women of the Bolivian indigenous Eyiyo Quibo and Portachuelo people had, by far, the highest levels of mercury...As these were indigenous women who do not engage in gold mining and have fish as the mainstay of their diet, it is clear that their very high mercury levels arise from consuming contaminated fish of the Beni River system...Women in the Brazilian gold mining village of Vila Nova had the second highest mean levels of mercury...Women in the Venezuelan gold mining town of El Callao had the third highest mean levels of mercury...Many women had significantly elevated levels with 43% of all participants exceeding a level of 3 ppm, 35% exceeding 5 ppm, and 7% over 10 ppm, the latter mostly among the Bolivian participants...A significant number of women also had elevated levels that could not be attributed to direct mercury exposure in mining including housewives, merchants, office workers and nurses in gold mining towns. These women all regularly consumed local fish suggesting that dietary exposure to mercury-contaminated fish may be responsible for their elevated body burden...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...Women in communities where mercury use in gold mining has been ended for some years reported some of the lowest mercury levels seen in IPEN’s global biomonitoring program...