Mercury exposure widespread among Yanomami tribe in Amazon, report finds – by Fabiano Maisonnave (Asssociated Press – April 4, 2024)

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Many Yanomami, the Amazon’s largest Indigenous tribe in relative isolation, have been contaminated with mercury coming from widespread illegal gold mining, according to a report released on Thursday by Brazil’s top public health institute.

The research was conducted in nine villages along the Mucajai River, a remote region where illegal mining is widespread. Mercury, a poison, is commonly used in illegal mining to process gold. The researchers collected hair samples from nearly 300 Yanomami of all ages. They were then examined by doctors, neurologists, psychologists and nurses.

The vast majority, 84% of Yanomami tested, had contamination equal to or above 2 micrograms per gram, a level of exposure that can lead to several health problems, according to standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and World Health Organization.

Even more worrying, a smaller part of this group, 10%, surpassed the 6 micrograms per gram threshold, a contamination level often associated with more severe medical conditions.

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