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Cad Saude Publica. 2008;24 Suppl 4:s503-20.

Human mercury exposure and adverse health effects in the Amazon: a review.

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Faculdade de Ciências Farmacêuticas de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, Brasil.


This paper examines issues of human mercury (Hg) exposure and adverse health effects throughout the Amazon region. An extensive review was conducted using bibliographic indexes as well as secondary sources. There are several sources of Hg (mining, deforestation, reservoirs), and exposure takes place through inhalation or from fish consumption. There is a wide range of exposure, with mean hair-Hg levels above 15 microg/g in several Amazonian communities, placing them among the highest reported levels in the world today. Dietary Hg intake has been estimated in the vicinity of 1-2 microg/kg/day, considerably higher than the USEPA RfD of 0.1 microg/kg/day or the World Health Organization recommendation of 0.23 microg/kg/day. Neurobehavioral deficits and, in some cases, clinical signs have been reported both for adults and children in relation to Hg exposure in several Amazonian countries. There is also some evidence of cytogenetic damage, immune alterations, and cardiovascular toxicity. Since fish provide a highly nutritious food source, there is an urgent need to find realistic and feasible solutions that will reduce exposure and toxic risk, while maintaining healthy traditional dietary habits and preserving this unique biodiversity.

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