A Virtuous Cycle in the Amazon: Reducing Mercury Exposure from Fish Consumption Requires Sustainable Agriculture

Chapter
Part of the Insight and Innovation in International Development book series (IIID, volume 1)

Abstract

The Brazilian gold rush period, which peaked during the 1980s, was fertile ground for research projects on mercury in the environment and its impacts on humans, especially in the Madeira and Tapajós River basins. These projects either focused on environment, or health, or other disciplines.

Keywords

Toxicity Phosphorus Mercury Lignin Sedimentation 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank the communities of the lower Tapajós who participated in the Caruso project. We acknowledge the many project investigators of the past 15 years, in particular Marc Lucotte. This paper is dedicated to the memory of Fernando Branches, a cardiologist from Santarem who brought the issue of mercury and health in the Amazonian region to the attention of the world, and Marc Roulet, the biogeochemist who identified deforestation as the source of mercury contamination in this region. IDRC support to Caruso was provided through projects 001300, 003323 and 101416.

References

  1. Akagi, H., Malm, O., Branches, F.J.P., Kinjo, Y., Kashima, Y., Guimarães, J.R.D., Oliveira, R.B., Haraguchi, K., Pfeiffer, W.C., Takizawa, Y., and Kato, H. (1995). Human Exposure to Mercury Due to Goldmining in the Tapajós River Basin, Amazon, Brazil: Speciation of Mercury in Human Hair, Blood and Urine. Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 80, 85–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amorim, M.I., Mergler, D., Bahia, M.O., Dubeau, H., Miranda, D., Lebel, J., Burbano, R.R., Lucotte, M. (2000). Cytogenetic Damage Related to Low Levels of Methyl Mercury Contamination in the Brazilian Amazon. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências, 72, 497–507.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barbosa Jr., F., Fillion, M., Lemire, M., Passos, C.J.S., Rodrigues, J.L., Philibert, A., Guimarães, J.R., and Mergler, D. (2009) Elevated Blood Lead Levels in a Riverside Population in the Brazilian Amazon. Environmental Research, 109, 594–599.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bastos, W.R., Silva, A.P., Guimarães, J.R.D., Malm, O., and Pfeiffer, W.C. (1999). Mercury Concentration in Suspended Particulate Matter and Bottom Sediment Samples of the Rato River, Itaituba, Pará State, Brazil. Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant, 23–27 May, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, p. 514Google Scholar
  5. Béliveau, A., Lucotte, M., Davidson, R., do Canto Lopes, L.O., and Paquet, S. (2009). Early Hg mobility in cultivated tropical soils one year after slash-and-burn of the primary forest, in the Brazilian Amazon. Science of the Total Environment, 407, 4480–4489.Google Scholar
  6. Dolbec, J., Mergler, D., Larribe, B., Roulet, M., Lebel, J., and Lucotte, M. (2001). Sequential Analysis of Hair Mercury Levels in Relation to Fish Diet of an Amazonian Population, Brazil. Science of the Total Environment, 271, 87–97.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dolbec, J., Mergler, D., Sousa Passos, C.J., Sousa de Morais, S., and Lebel, J. (2000). Methylmercury Exposure Affects Motor Performance of a Riverine Population of the Tapajós River, Brazilian Amazon. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 73, 195–203.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Farella, N., Davidson, R., Lucotte, M., and Daigle, S. (2007). Nutrient and Mercury Variations in Soils from Family Farms of the Tapajós Region (Brazilian Amazon): Recommendations for Better Farming. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 120, 449–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Farella, N., Lucotte, M., Davidson, R., and Daigle, S. (2006) Mercury Release from Deforested Soils Triggered by Base Cation Enrichment. Science of the Total Environment, 368, 19–29.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Farella, N., Lucotte, M., Louchouarn, P., and Roulet, M. (2001). Deforestation Modifying Terrestrial Organic Transport in the Rio Tapajós, Brazilian Amazon. Organic Geochemistry, 32, 1443–1458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fillion, M., Mergler, D., Passos, C.J.S., Larribe, F., Lemire, M., and Guimarães, J.R.D. (2006). A Preliminary Study of Mercury Exposure and Blood Pressure in the Brazilian Amazon. Environmental Health, 5, 29.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fillion, M., Passos, C.J., Lemire, M., Fournier, B., Mertens, F., Guimarães, J.R., and Mergler, D. (2009). Quality of Life and Health Perceptions Among Fish-Eating Communities of the Brazilian Amazon: An Ecosystem Approach to Well-Being. EcoHealth, 6(1), 121–134PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Guimarães, J.R.D., Roulet, M., Lucotte, M., and Mergler, D. (2000a). Mercury Methylation Potentials Along a Lake-Forest Transect in the Tapajós River Floodplain, Brazilian Amazon: Seasonal and Vertical Variations. Science of the Total Environment, 261, 91–98.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Guimarães, J.R.D., Meili, M., Hylander, L.D., Castro e Silva, E., Roulet, M., Mauro, J.B.N., and Lemos, R.A. (2000b). Mercury Net Methylation in Five Tropical Flood Plain Regions of Brazil: High in the Root Zone of Floating Macrophyte Mats but Low in Surface Sediments and Flooded Soils. Science of the Total Environment, 261, 99–107.Google Scholar
  15. Lebel, J., Roulet, M., Mergler, D., Lucotte, M., and Larribe, F. (1997). Fish Diet and Mercury Exposure in a Riparian Amazonian Population. Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 97, 31–44.Google Scholar
  16. Lebel, J., Mergler, D., Branches, F., Lucotte, M., Amorim, M., Larribe, F., and Dolbec, J. (1998). Neurotoxic Effects of Low-Level Methylmercury Contamination in the Amazonian Basin. Environmental Research, 79, 20–32.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lemire, M., Mergler, D., Fillion, M., Sousa Passos, C.J., Guimarães, J-R., Davidson, R., and Lucotte, M. (2006). Elevated Blood Selenium Levels in the Brazilian Amazon. Science of the Total Environment, 366, 101–111.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lemire, M., Mergler, D., Huel, G., Passos, C.J.S., Fillion, M., Philibert, A., Guimarães, J.R.D., Rheault, I., and Norman, G. (2009). Biomarkers of Selenium Status in the Amazonian Context: Blood, Urine and Sequential Hair Segments. Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, 19, 213–222.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lemire, M., Fillion, M., Frenette, B., Mayer, A., Philibert, A., Passos, C.J.S., Guimarães, J.R.D., Barbosa, Jr., F., and Mergler, D. (2010) Selenium and Mercury in the Brazilian Amazon: Opposing Influences on Age-Related Cataracts. Environmental Health Perspectives, 118, 1584–1589.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lucotte, M., Davidson, R., Mergler, D., Saint-Charles, J., and Guimarães, J.R.D. (2004). Human Exposure to Mercury as a Consequence of Landscape Management and Socio-Economical Behaviors. Part I: The Brazilian Amazon Case Study. RMZ — Materials and Geoenvironment (Materiali in geookolje), 51, 668–672.Google Scholar
  21. Malm, O., Guimarães, J.R.D., Castro, M.B., Bastos, W.R., Viana, J.P., and Pfeiffer, W.C. (1997). Follow-Up of Mercury Levels in Fish, Human Hair and Urine in the Madeira and Tapajós Basins, Amazon, Brazil. Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 97, 45–51.Google Scholar
  22. Malm, O., and Guimarães, J.R.D. (1999). Biomonitoring Environmental Contamination with Metallic and Methylmercury in Amazon Gold Mining Areas, Brazil. In: Azcue, J.M. (Ed.), Environmental Impacts of Mining Activities, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, Chapter 4, 41–54.Google Scholar
  23. Mertens, F., Saint-Charles, J., Lucotte, M., and Mergler, D. (2008). Emergence and Robustness of a Community Discussion Network on Mercury Contamination and Health in the Brazilian Amazon. Health Education and Behavior, 35, 509–521.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mertens, F., Saint-Charles, J., Mergler, D., Passos, C.J., and Lucotte, M. (2005). Network Approach for Analyzing and Promoting Equity in Participatory Ecohealth Research. EcoHealth, 2(2), 113–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Miranda, M.R., Guimarães, J.R.D., Roulet, M., Acha, D., Coelho-Souza S.A., Mauro, J.B.N., and Iniguez, V. (2004). Mercury Methylation and Bacterial Activity in Macrophyte Associated Periphyton in Floodplain Lakes of the Amazon Basin. RMZ — Materials and Geoenvironment (Materiali in geookolje), 51(2), 1218–1220.Google Scholar
  26. Passos, C.J., Mergler, D., Gaspar, E., Morais, S., Lucotte, M., Larribe, F., and Grosbois, S. (2001) Caracterização Geral do Consumo Alimentar de uma População Ribeirinha na Amazônia Brasileira. Revista Saúde e Ambiente, 4, 72–84.Google Scholar
  27. Passos, C.J., and Mergler, D. (2008). Human Mercury Exposure and Adverse Health Effects in the Amazon: A Review. Cadernos de Saúde Pública, 24 (Suppl 4), s503–s520.Google Scholar
  28. Passos, C.J., Mergler, D., Fillion, M., Lemire, M., Mertens, M., Guimarães, J.R.D., and Philibert, A. (2007). Epidemiologic Confirmation that Fruit Consumption Influences Mercury Exposure in Riparian Communities in the Brazilian Amazon. Environmental Research, 105, 183–193.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Passos, C.J., Mergler, D., Gaspar, E., Morais, S., Lucotte, M., Larribe, F., Davidson, D., and de Grosbois, S. (2003). Eating Tropical Fruit Reduces Mercury Exposure from Fish Consumption in the Brazilian Amazon. Environmental Research, 93, 123–130.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pfeiffer, W.C., Lacerda, L.D., Salomons, W., Malm, O. (1993). Environmental Fate of Mercury from Gold Mining in the Brazilian Amazon. Environmental Review, 1, 26–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Roulet, M., Lucotte, M., Canuel, R., Rheault, I., Tran, S., Gog, Y.G.D., Valer, S.D., Passos, C.J., De Jesus Da Silva, E.D., Mergler, D., and Amorim, M. (1998a). Distribution and Partition of Total Mercury in Waters of the Tapajós River Basin, Brazilian Amazon. Science of the Total Environment, 213, 203–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Roulet, M., Lucotte, M., Saint-Aubin, A., Tran, S., Rhéault, I., Farella, N., De Jesus Da Silva E.D., Dezencourt, J., Sousa Passos, C.J., Santos Soares, G., Guimarães, J.R.D., Mergler, D., and Amorim, M. (1998b). The Geochemistry of Hg in Central Amazonian Soils Developed on the Alter-Do-Chão Formation of the Lower Tapajós River Valley, Pará State, Brazil. Science of the Total Environment, 223, 1–24.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Roulet, M., Lucotte, M., Farella, N., Serique, G., Coelho, H., Passos, C.J., De Jesus Da Silva, E.D., de Andrade, P.S., Mergler, D., Guimarães, J.R.D., and Amorim, M. (1999). Effects of Recent Human Colonization on the Presence of Mercury in Amazonian Ecosystems. Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 112, 297–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Roulet, M., Lucotte, M., Canuel, R., Farella, N., Courcelles, M., Guimarães, J.R.D., Mergler, D., and Amorim, M. (2000a). Increase in Mercury Contamination Recorded in Lacustrine Sediments Following Deforestation in Central Amazonia. Chemical Geology, 165, 243–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Roulet, M., Lucotte, M., Guimarães, J.R.D., and Rhéault, I. (2000b). Methylmercury in the Water, Seston and Epiphyton of an Amazonian River and its Floodplain, Tapajós River, Brazil. Science of the Total Environment, 261, 43–59.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Roulet, M., Lucotte, M., Canuel, R., Farella, N., De Freitos Goch Y.G., Pacheco Peleja, R.J., Guimarães, J.R.D., Mergler, D., and Amorim, M. (2001). Spatio-Temporal Geochemistry of Hg in Waters of the Tapajós and Amazon Rivers, Brazil. Limnology and Oceanography, 46 (5), 1141–1157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sampaio da Silva, D., Lucotte, M., Paquet, S., and Davidson, R. (2009). Influence of Ecological Factors and of Land Use on Mercury Levels in Fish in the Tapajós River Basin, Amazon. Environmental Research, 109, 432–446.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sampaio da Silva, D., Lucotte, M., Roulet, M., Poirier, H., Mergler, D., de Oliveira Santos, E., and Crossa, M. (2005). Trophic Structure and Bioaccumulation of Mercury in Fish of Three Natural Lakes of the Brazilian Amazon. Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 165, 77–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. WHO (World Health Organization). (1990). Methylmercury. Environmental Health Criteria 101. World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© International Development Research Centre 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biophysics InstituteFederal University of Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroBrazil
  2. 2.Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire sur la biologie, la santé, la société et l’environnement (CINBIOSE)Université du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada

Personalised recommendations