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Atmospheric mercury concentrations in the basin of the amazon, Brazil


A wide regional mercury pollution in Amazon, Brazil is closely associated with goldmining that has been carried out in the basin of tributaries of the Amazon since the eighteenth century. Possible involvement has been discussed on atmospheric circulation in distributing the volatile pollutant. We developed a portable air sampler for the collection of mercury compounds and determined atmospheric mercury concentrations at several sites in Brazil including the basin of the Amazon tributaries. The mean concentration of total mercury was between 9.1 and 14.0 ng/m3 in the basin of the Uatumã River located in the tropical rain forest far from goldmining sites and from urbanized area. These mercury levels exceeded the background level previously reported in rural area and, furthermore, were higher than concentrations observed in Rio de Janeiro and in Manaus that were compatible with the reference values for urban area. Mercury concentrations were also determined in gold refineries in the basin of the Tapajos River, and detected at a significant but not a health deteriorating level. Although only preliminary data were available, the present observations were in favor of the hypothesis that mercury is distributed widely by long distant transport by the atmospheric circulation after released at gold mining sites.


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Correspondence to Noriyuki Hachiya.

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Hachiya, N., Takizawa, Y., Hisamatsu, S. et al. Atmospheric mercury concentrations in the basin of the amazon, Brazil. Environ Health Prev Med 2, 183 (1998).

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Key words

  • Mercury
  • Air contamination
  • Amazon
  • A portable air sampler
  • Global environment