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Study: Natives most affected by Amazon mercury

Monday - 9/9/2013, 9:30pm  ET

LIMA, Peru (AP) -- A study of mercury contamination from rampant informal gold mining in Peru's Amazon finds that indigenous people, and particularly the children, to be most affected.

The research detailed Monday by the Carnegie Institution for Science found 76.5 percent of 1,029 people in the Madre de Dios region to have mercury levels above acceptable limits.

Project director Luis Fernandez say people in native communities had mercury levels in hair samples more than twice those in non-indigenous communities.

He says that's because they eat more fish.

Fernandez says indigenous children had three times more mercury than children from non-native communities. Children are at far greater risk than adults from poisoning by mercury, a potent neurotoxin.

Miners use mercury to bind gold flecks, then burn it off, releasing it into the environment.


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