New research from CAMEP-Carnegie Amazon Mercury Ecosystem Project-has found that mercury is an increasing environmental and public health problem in the gold mining region of Madre de Dios in Peru. High mercury concentrations were found in the wild caught fish sold in markets, and also in many of the people residing in the capital city, Puerto Maldonado.
Major findings include:
- 60% of the species of fish sold in Puerto Maldonado had mercury levels that exceeded international mercury concentration limits for fish.
- Mercury levels increased in 90% of fish species between 2009 and 2012.
- 78% of adults in Puerto Maldonado had hair mercury concentrations above international mercury reference limits for human hair.
- The most vulnerable population, women of child bearing age, had the highest average mercury levels.
- The human population of Puerto Maldonado has a very high risk of mercury exposure and associated health effects due to high consumption of local contaminated fish, experience in gold mining, and from inhalation of airborne mercury from gold buying shops.