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Research into Mercury Exposure and Health Education in Subsistence Fish-Eating Communities of the Amazon Basin: Potential Effects on Public Health Policy

Department of Nutrition, Universidade de Brasília, P.O. Box 04322, Brasília, DF, 70919-970, Brasil
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2010, 7(9), 3467-3477; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph7093467
Received: 2 August 2010 / Revised: 30 August 2010 / Accepted: 10 September 2010 / Published: 16 September 2010
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biomarkers: Environmental Research and Public Health)
The neurotoxic effects of fish-methylmercury (meHg) consumed regularly are considered hazardous to fetuses and newborn infants; as a result fish consumption advisories are an important asset to control meHg exposure in affluent societies. These concerns are now part of health promotion programs for Amazon subsistence villagers. While urban dwellers in affluent societies can choose an alternative nutritious diet, traditional and subsistence communities are caught up in controversial issues and lifestyle changes with unintended health consequences. Traditional fish-eating populations of industrialized and non-industrialized regions may be exposed to different neurotoxic substances: man-made pollutants and environmentally occurring meHg. Additionally, in non-industrialized countries, pregnant women and infants are still being immunized with thimerosal-containing vaccines (TCVs) which degrade to ethylmercury (etHg). Therefore, the complexity involving fish-meHg associated with wild-fish choices and Hg exposure derived from TCVs is difficult to disentangle and evaluate: are villagers able to distinguish exposure to differently hazardous chemical forms of Hg (inorganic, fish-meHg, and injected etHg)? Is it possible that instead of helping to prevent a plausible (unperceived) fish-meHg associated neurocognitive delay we may inadvertently arouse panic surrounding Hg exposure and disrupt subsistence fish-eating habits (necessary for survival) and life-saving vaccination programs (required by public health authorities)? These questions characterize the incompleteness of information related on the various chemical forms of Hg exposure and the need to convey messages that do not disrupt nutritional balance and disease prevention policies directed at Amazonian subsistence communities. View Full-Text
Keywords: methylmercury; ethylmercury; thimerosal; fish; risk assessment; neurodevelopment methylmercury; ethylmercury; thimerosal; fish; risk assessment; neurodevelopment
MDPI and ACS Style

Dórea, J.G. Research into Mercury Exposure and Health Education in Subsistence Fish-Eating Communities of the Amazon Basin: Potential Effects on Public Health Policy. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2010, 7, 3467-3477.

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