247656 Mercury exposure and potential adverse health effects for susceptible populations in two indigenous communities in Suriname, South America

Monday, October 31, 2011

W. Bradley Hawkins, MS, MPH , School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Department of Global Environmental Health Sciences, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
Maureen Y. Lichtveld, MD, MPH , School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
Paul Ouboter, PhD , National Zoological Collection of Suriname/Center for Environmental Research, University of Suriname, Parimaribo, Suriname
In Suriname, mercury (Hg) is released into the environment through gold mining activities and is biomagnified through the aquatic food web. Indigenous populations rely on fish as a major component of their diet and are potentially chronically exposed to Hg through consumption of tainted fish. The goal of this study is to determine the public health implications associated with exposure to Hg through the diet in vulnerable populations with existing health disparities in rural Suriname. Two communities located downriver from gold mining activities were identified and preliminary dietary surveys indicated that 90% of the study population consumed fish at least once a week; and for approximately 65% of those questioned, fish was a component of their daily diet. Mercury analysis revealed that 75% of the sampled fish were at or above the WHO standard of 0.5 ug Hg/g. The data gathered from dietary surveys and the fish analysis provide an overall insight to the magnitude of Hg exposure and potential health risks. To further investigate these risks, a subset of the susceptible populations (women and children) from each village has been recruited and will be administered a detailed 7 day dietary survey. Biomarkers of Hg exposure will be conducted through hair sample analysis for each participant. The results of these studies will enable researchers to develop effective interventions and reduce the health disparities not only in the two villages, but also in other populations susceptible to the deleterious impact of gold mining.

Learning Areas:
Environmental health sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify the routes of exposure from an environmental health hazard Determine the role of diet in a potential mercury exposure

Keywords: Environmental Health Hazards, Indigenous Populations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the coordinator for the research being presented. It is my doctoral research project.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.