Mercury exposure assessment in indigenous communities from Tarapaca village, Cotuhe and Putumayo Rivers, Colombian Amazon
- 26 Downloads
Mercury (Hg) is a complex and multifaceted global pollutant. Artisanal and small-scale gold mining activities are largely responsible for Hg contamination in developing countries, in many cases impacting areas of high biodiversity such as the Amazon. The aim of the study was to establish Hg exposure in indigenous citizens from the Tarapaca village, Cotuhe and Putumayo Rivers, at the Colombian Amazon. Total Hg (T-Hg) concentrations were measured employing a DMA-80 Hg analyzer. For that purpose, 190 hair samples were taken from volunteers living in different communities of Tarapaca. The overall mean T-Hg level for all samples was 10.6 ± 0.4 μg/g, with values ranging from 0.61 to 31.1 μg/g. The mean T-Hg level decreased in the order Puerto Huila > Puerto Ticuna > Ventura > Nueva Union > Buenos Aires > Santa Lucia > Puerto Nuevo > Caña Brava > Pupuña. Based on recommendations from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), 99.5% of the samples exceeded the maximum level of 1.0 μg/g. Hg content in human hair was significantly associated with fish consumption (ρ = 0.253; p < 0.001). According to the health survey, at least 24.7% of the volunteers manifested some signs and symptoms of Hg poisoning. In short, these data support the extensive Hg exposure in the environment of the Colombian Amazon, a process that could be impacting the quality of life of its vulnerable indigenous groups. Immediate actions must be taken by competent authorities to protect these communities from Hg poisoning.
KeywordsPollution Fish consumption Ethnic groups Health risk
The authors thank the indigenous communities from the Colombian Amazon, as well as special thanks to Victor Moreno Rengifo and all the incredible and wonderful communities from the Amazon.
National Natural Parks of Colombia. National Program for Doctoral Formation, COLCIENCIAS-UniCartagena, Grants 757-2016 and 567-2012, Vice-Presidency for Research, UniCartagena. Grants to Support Research Groups (2016-2018) and Grant 114/2018
Compliance with ethical standards
This research was approved by the Ethical Committee of the University of Cartagena (CE-9002070716), as part of the National Observatory for Mercury.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Castilhos Z, Rodrigues-Filho S, Cesar R, Rodrigues AP, Villas-Bôas R, de Jesus I, Lima M, Faial K, Miranda A, Brabo E (2015) Human exposure and risk assessment associated with mercury contamination in artisanal gold mining areas in the Brazilian Amazon. Environ Sci Pollut R 22:11255–11264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Dórea JG, de Souza JR, Rodrigues P, Ferrari Í, Barbosa AC (2005) Hair mercury (signature of fish consumption) and cardiovascular risk in Munduruku and Kayabi Indians of Amazonia. Conserv Biol 97:209–219Google Scholar
- Guédron S, Point D, Acha D, Bouchet S, Baya PA, Tessier E, Monperrus M, Molina CI, Groleau A, Chauvaud L, Thebault J, Amice E, Alanoca L, Duwig C, Uzu G, Lazzaro X, Bertrand A, Bertrand S, Barbraud C, Delord K, Gibon FM, Ibanez C, Flores M, Fernandez Saavedra P, Ezpinoza ME, Heredia C, Rocha F, Zepita C, Amouroux D (2017) Mercury contamination level and speciation inventory in Lakes Titicaca & Uru-Uru (Bolivia): current status and future trends. Environ Pollut 231:262–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Harada M, Fujino T, Akagi T, Nishigaki S (1977) Mercury contamination in human hair at Indian reserves in Canada. Kumamoto Med J 30:57–64Google Scholar
- Jennings N (1999): Social and labour issues in small-scale mines: report for discussion at the tripartite meeting on social and labour issues in small-scale mines, Geneva, 1999. International Labour OrganizationGoogle Scholar
- Lee J-C, Ilyas S (2018) Artisanal gold mining and amalgamation, Gold metallurgy and the environment. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 29–50Google Scholar
- Malm O, Pfeiffer WC, Souza CM, Reuther R (1990) Mercury pollution due to gold mining in the Madeira River basin, Brazil. Ambio 19:11–15Google Scholar
- Sharma B, Singh S, Siddiqi NJ (2014) Biomedical implications of heavy metals induced imbalances in redox systems. BioMed Res Int 2014:1-26Google Scholar
- Telmer K, Veiga M (2008) World emissions of mercury from small scale artisanal gold mining and the knowledge gaps about them. GMP presentation, RomeGoogle Scholar
- TIG (2019) Tarapacá: La autonomía en educación. Territorio indigena y gobernanza. http://territorioindigenaygobernanza.com/web/col_13/. Accessed 25 July 2019
- USEPA EPA (1997): Mercury study report to Congress. Volume 1. Executive summary, Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, NC (United States). Office of Air Quality Planning and StandardsGoogle Scholar
- Valdelamar-Villegas J, Olivero-Verbel J (2019) High mercury levels in the indigenous population of the Yaigojé Apaporis National Natural Park, Colombian Amazon. Biol Trace Elem Res. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12011-019-01760-0
- Veiga MM, Shoko D, Spiegel SJ, Savornin O, Raphael P, Castigo P, et al., (2005) UNIDO, Global Mercury Project. Pilot project for the reduction of mercury contamination resulting from artisanal gold mining fields in the Manica District of Mozambique.Google Scholar
- Virtanen JK, Voutilainen S, Rissanen TH, Mursu J, Tuomainen T-P, Korhonen MJ, Valkonen V-P, Seppänen K, Laukkanen JA, Salonen JT (2005) Mercury, fish oils, and risk of acute coronary events and cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and all-cause mortality in men in eastern Finland. Arter Thromb Vasc Biol 25:228–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- WHO WHO (2003) Elemental mercury and inorganic mercury compounds: human health aspects.Google Scholar
- Yagev Y, Koren G (2002) Eating fish during pregnancy. Risk of exposure to toxic levels of methylmercury. Can Fam Physician 48:1619–1621Google Scholar