A report released during the Second Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury in Geneva, Switzerland, highlights the dangers of mercury pollution throughout the Amazon.
Therefore, it makes an urgent call for action to reduce the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining to protect the largest river system in the world.
According to the report, mercury, classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “one of the ten chemicals of greatest public health concern", it is estimatedhas negatively affected the health of more than one and a half million people in the region. In addition, it threatens the health and livelihoods of millions more. Since, air and water pollution and plant and animal poisoning intensify it.
The main source of mercury contamination in the Amazon is artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
This represents 15% of the gold mined in the region. Mercury is used in the gold purification process. This contributes to 71% of total mercury emissions each year.
"Unfortunately, the mercury contamination crisis in the Amazon is widely ignored despite growing evidence of the dangers it poses to people and wildlife throughout the river system," said Jordi Surkin, Director of the Coordination Unit Amazonian WW
"Furthermore, the most vulnerable victims are indigenous peoples and local communities, as well as thousands of unique species."
The Amazon is estimated to be the most biodiverse place in the world. However, mercury contamination is putting iconic species at risk. Some examples are jaguars, river dolphins, and fish. This is also critical for the food security of indigenous, rural and urban communities.
The report calls on governments, gold buyers, consumers, and miners to take immediate action to reduce the rampant use of mercury in the Amazon.
The report calls on governments to implement efficient policies to combat mercury. Governments also need to support the mining sector to adopt environmentally sustainable alternative livelihoods.
To promote these actions, WWF promoted the creation of the Regional Alliance for a Mercury-Free Amazon. This platform that brings together organizations, government representatives, researchers and indigenous leaders seeks to develop clear lines of action.