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Remote Amazon tribe hit by mercury crisis, leaked report says

An indigenous people living in one of the remotest parts of the Peruvian Amazon has been struck by a mystery mercury epidemic, according to an unpublished Health Ministry report dated 2015 and 2017 seen by the Guardian.

The Nahua only entered into sustained contact with “outsiders” in the mid-1980s, which led to almost 50% of the population dying mainly from respiratory and infectious diseases. Today, numbering less than 500 people, the vast majority live in a village in the Kugapakori, Nahua, Nanti and Others Reserve established for indigenous peoples in “voluntary isolation” and “initial contact” in south-east Peru.

The leaked report, titled Análisis de Situación de Salud del Pueblo Nahua de Santa Rosa de Serjali en la Reserva Territorial Kugapakori Nahua Nanti y Otros, states that government health authorities were first alerted to the mercury crisis among the Nahua when a six month old baby, initially diagnosed with pneumonia, and his mother were admitted to a private clinic in Lima in November 2014. The baby was found to have severe anaemia and his blood was tested for heavy metals, resulting in both him and his mother being diagnosed with “mercury intoxication.”

photo credit: mariusz kluzniak

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