Research ensures that mercury mining does not threaten the health of riparian

After 20 years of studies, a professor at UNB found that communities in the Amazon should not stop eating fish

Foto: Gov.Amazonas/SEMA
Local population for fishing for arapaima in the Amazon River
Local population for fishing for arapaima in the Amazon River

Over the past 60 years, more than 900 people have died poisoned by eating fish contaminated by mercury in Minamata Bay, Japan was the liquid metal from a PVC plant. This episode became known as the Minamata disaster. It was feared that the same could happen in Brazil due to high amount of mining in the Amazon region, since mercury is used in gold extraction. Interested in finding out if fear made sense, Professor Jose Dorea, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Brasilia (Unb), initiated a series of research on the subject, about 20 years. And found that there are no symptoms of poisoning.

To check the mercury content in local populations, the team studied Dórea the metal concentration in hair of mothers and children of the Amazon. The threads act as a marker of any food consumption, a species of organism's metabolic picture of each person. As the hair comes and goes inside the body, it records what is consumed and then remained unchanged. The same goes for nails, explained Professor Dorea.

He said that the indigenous populations and are exposed to the presence of mercury, mainly because of the consumption of contaminated fish, but do not show clinical symptoms of intoxication. The levels of mercury found in fish of Amazonian rivers varied according to species, seasonal rivers and the levels of the food chain, but it is possible to say that mining represents a negligible percentage of the presence of metal in fish.

"The local community can suffer consequences of abandoning the traditional consumption of fish, the professor said. According Dorea, the life circumstances of the Japanese people during the post-war have worsened the problems of mercury poisoning. Miamata In the affected people suffered severe seizures, bouts of psychosis, coma and death.

<b> reaction of the academic community </ b>

For years, Jose Dorea was challenged by the academic community and the accused to defend miners. Today he is one of the most renowned researchers in the field of biomedicine with about 200 articles published in indexed international journals such as Journal Medical College of Nutrition, Environmental Research and Environmental Health Perspective.

The science is done with an open mind and ability. Dorea argued that the research can be done simply. To perform many of the studies in the Amazon, he had only fish and scales to weigh children and scissors to cut hair.

The major tools of a scientist is his intellect and his integrity. You do not need sophisticated equipment to do good science, said.

The sequence of research Dórea want to check the influence of the presence of mercury found in vaccines. In developed countries no longer use mercury in vaccines, he said.