Health effects of ingestion of mercury-polluted urban soil: an animal experiment

Baisch, Ana Luiza Muccillo; Mirlean, Nicolai; Carrazzoni, Daniela; Soares, Maria Cristina Flores; Peraza, Gianni Goulart; Baisch, Paulo Roberto Martins


Rio Grande, the southernmost Brazilian port and industrial center, is marked by mercurypolluted ground cover. This pollution varies spatially, with levels exceeding 1,000 lg kg-1 in 30% of the urban territory. The risk of Hg impact as a result of deliberate and involuntary geophagy is increased by restrained urban conditions in combination with the large proportion of the population living at lowincome levels. Laboratory tests have demonstrated that ingestion of Hg-polluted soil by rats results in significant alterations in animal health such as stagnation in body weight increase, and significant mercury accumulation in the liver and kidney. The consumption of Hg- contaminated urban soil also provoked changes in hematological profiles of experimental animals by increasing the number of platelets. The present study indicates the potential for the local population of Rio Grande living in mercurypolluted districts, specifically young children, to experience health disturbances.

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