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Burden of Mild Mental Retardation attributed to prenatal methylmercury exposure in Amazon: local and regional estimates

Carga de Retardo Mental Leve atribuída à exposição pré-natal ao metilmercúrio na Amazônia: estimativas local e regional


The gold rush in the Amazon Region caused an increase of mercury (Hg) levels in the environment, and, consequently, raised human exposure. Once released into aquatic systems, Hg could generate methylmercury (MeHg), an extremely toxic compound, which is accumulated through trophic chains. Several studies have provided evidences of the brain sensitivity to MeHg, as well as, of the fetus vulnerability during pregnancy. The main objective of this study was to estimate the Mild Mental Retardation (MMR) in Amazonian populations, caused by prenatal exposure to MeHg, using the methodology proposed by Poulin (2008), which quantifies the environmental burden of disease. The estimates of the MMR burden, attributed to prenatal MeHg exposure, were based on the calculation of Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALY), which were obtained from MMR incidence rate in the studied populations. At the local level, the MMR incidence rate calculations were based on primary data of MeHg exposure of riverine women at childbearing age. The MMR incidence rate was equal to 5.96/1,000 infants, which would result in 2.0 IQ points loss in 34.31% of the newborns. The estimated DALY/1,000 infants was equal to 71.2, while the DALY was 576. For the regional estimates, different exposure scenarios were created. The calculated DALY varied from 3,256 to 65,952 per year.

Hg; DALY; Amazon

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