Holistic health risk assessment in an artisanal mercury mining region in Mexico Article uri icon


  • Mexico is one of the world’s leading mercury producers and exporters. However, mercury mining is carried out using artisanal procedures, which highly impact ecosystems. In the municipality of Pinal de Amoles, Queretaro, Mexico, artisanal mercury mining (AMM) is practiced in a region that has been categorized as a Biosphere Reserve. Therefore, a holistic health risk assessment for mercury was performed in the region, including environmental monitoring (air, water, and soil) and mercury exposure in both humans (children, women, and miners) and biota (plants, rodents, and worms). The atmospheric mercury determination was carried out using the JEROME® J405 analyzer, whereas total mercury in environmental and biological samples was determined by atomic absorption spectrophotometry/cold vapor. Results showed that mercury concentrations in the environmental and biological matrices exceeded their respective reference values. These results demonstrate the direct influence of AMM in the increasing levels of mercury in all the components of the studied ecosystem. Therefore, comprehensive intervention strategies must be implemented to reduce and prevent human health and ecological risks due to the presence of mercury. In this regard, the Minamata Convention for mercury control should include biomonitoring programs not only for humans but also for critical ecological receptors in polluted ecosystems. © 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

publication date

  • 2021-01-01