Hair mercury level is associated with anemia and micronutrient status in children living near artisanal and small-scale gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon

Caren Weinhouse, Ernesto J. Ortiz, Axel J. Berky, Paige Bullins, John Hare-Grogg, Laura Rogers, Ana Maria Morales, Heileen Hsu-Kim, William K. Pan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

Anemia has been widely studied in global health contexts because of severe nutritional deficiency, and more recently, inflammatory status, but chemical exposures are rarely considered. Until recently, "anemia" was used synonymously with "iron deficiency anemia (IDA)" in global health settings. However, only 50% of anemia cases worldwide are IDA. Environmental toxicology studies of anemia risk have generally focused on populations in developed countries, albeit with high exposure to environmental toxicants, such as lead or cadmium. In the developing world, toxicant exposures commonly coexist with other risk factors for anemia. In particular, artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) communities are at risk for dietary methylmercury exposure through contaminated fish consumption, and for anemia due to food insecurity and infectious and chronic diseases. Here, we report analysis of total hair mercury content, hemoglobin, and serum micronutrient levels in children < 12 years of age (N = 83) near ASGM in the Peruvian Amazon. Forty-nine percent (N = 29/59) of those aged < 5 years were anemic (< 11 g/dL) and 52% (N = 12/23) of those aged 5-11 years (< 11.5 g/dL). Few children were stunted, wasted, or micronutrient deficient. Median total hair mercury was 1.18 μg/g (range: 0.06-9.70 μg/g).Wefound an inverse association between total mercury and hemoglobin (β = -0.12 g/dL, P = 0.06) that persisted (β = -0.14 g/dL, P = 0.04) after adjusting for age, sex, anthropometrics, and vitamin B12 in multivariate regression. This study provides preliminary evidence that methylmercury exposure is associated with anemia, which is especially relevant to children living near ASGM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1886-1897
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Volume97
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases

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