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Exposición a mercurio de mujeres y niños de comunidades indígenas del río Beni (Bolivia), con relación a problemas de salud (malnutrición, parasitismo, anemia) endémicos en el área

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  • Pollution Chimique
  • Mercure
  • Poisson D'Eau Douce
  • Consommation Alimentaire
  • Intoxication Alimentaire
  • Malnutrition
  • Communaute Amerindienne
  • Enfant
  • Femme
  • Biology
  • Design
  • Ecology
  • Medicine


Background: Mercury accumulation may contaminate the Amazonian ecosystem; especially fish consumed by riverside Amerindian communities and exert a negative effect on their health status. Objectives: To evaluate the mercury exposure in women, children and adolescents from riverside communities of the Beni River (Bolivia), taking into account the unfavorable health conditions of the area (infections, intestinal parasitism and undernutrition). The working hypothesis was that contamination did not reach a sufficient level in order to produce clinically detectable abnormalities. Population: A total of 640 people were examined during the study from April to July 2004 (174 mothers and 450 children). They belonged to 15 communities of the Beni, 110 km downstream the small town of Rurrenabaque. Methods: Data on life style and fish consumption of families were collected. A clinical examination was performed along with nutritional evaluation (on basis of anthropometric measurements). Stools were collected to look for intestinal parasites. Hemoglobin and hematocrit were measured. Hair samples were taken to determine the mercury content using atomic absorption spectrometry with cold vapor generation. Results: Women displayed a mean hair mercury of 5.4 ± 4.3 μg/g (min: 0.15; max: 20.08 μg/g) and children and adolescents of 5.3 ± 4.5 μg/g (min: 0.08; max: 34.14 μg/g). There existed a significant relationship between hair mercury and fish consumption and also with the belonging to a particular ethnic group (Esse Ejjas) or a subsistence activity oriented towards fishing.. Stunting prevalence was equal to 38.9 % (IC 95%= 34.3~43.6), and 85.2% of children (IC 95%= 80.7~89.0) were infested by helminths intestinal. There were no cases of undernutrition among mothers but 39.8% (IC 95%= 32.3~47.5) of them were anemic. Infant or child mortality was high (20%). These facts were evocative of a mediocre health status. Multivariate analysis stressed the role of fish consumption and life style as risk factors on contamination. Among the 5-10 years-old children, there were significant and positive relationships between nutritional indices and mercury content of hair. No relationship between health indicators (parasitism or anemia) and mercury contamination was demonstrated. 8 Conclusions: The average mercury levels in the area could be considered as low to moderate. For this reason, and also because of the transversal design of the study, it was not possible to observe a health impact. However, the communities were suffering from many diseases that could mask a negative effect of mercury. This does not mean that a true contamination problem must be mitigated. There is a need to assess the mercury content of fishes and to give timely information to the communities, in order to prevent a risk in the future. (résumé d'auteur)

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