Environmental Justice

Women of childbearing age around world suffering toxic levels of mercury

Women in areas where mercury is used in small-scale gold mining had some of the most extreme levels of contamination (Credit: Edgard Garrido/Reuters).

Study finds excessive levels of the metal, which can seriously harm unborn children, in women from Alaska to Indonesia, due to gold mining, industrial pollution, and fish-rich diets

NEW YORK, NY — “Women of childbearing age from around the world have been found to have high levels of mercury, a potent neurotoxin which can seriously harm unborn children.

The new study, the largest to date, covered 25 of the countries with the highest risk and found excessive levels of the toxic metal in women from Alaska to Chile and Indonesia to Kenya. Women in the Pacific islands were the most pervasively contaminated. This results from their reliance on eating fish, which concentrate the mercury pollution found across the world’s oceans and much of which originates from coal burning.

The most extreme levels were found in women from sites in Indonesia where mercury is heavily used in small-scale gold mining and where fish is also commonly eaten. Such gold mining leads to serious mercury pollution and is also a source of harm to women in Kenya, Paraguay and Myanmar.”

— Damian Carrington, The Guardian

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