A study carried out by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, a federal biological institute, and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro found that most residents of the town of Brumadinho, in Minas Gerais state, have high levels of toxic metals in their systems.
Just three and a half years ago, Brumadinho was the scene of the biggest environmental tragedy in Brazil’s recent history, when a dam owned by mining company Vale collapsed and left 270 dead in 2019.
Among adults, 37 percent had manganese blood levels above those recommended by the World Health Organization, and 34 percent had arsenic in their urine.
Among adolescents, 30 percent had arsenic in their urine, 52 percent had excessive quantities of manganese and 12 percent had lead in their blood above reference limits. All children up to six years old presented at least one toxic metal in the exams, and half of them had a higher value than accepted.
The research also showed that people in the region have a higher incidence of depression and anxiety than the Brazilian average. Half of the local parents also stated they noticed changes in their children’s health after the disaster, mainly regarding respiratory diseases.
The tests indicate exposure of the population to the metals, but not necessarily intoxication. Poisoning cases can lead to serious health problems, including death. Respondents will be tracked annually until 2024 to determine what impacts on their health were due to the presence of metals in the environment.
According to the authors, it will be one of the first studies on how a mining disaster can affect the health of people in surrounding communities.
Back in April, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged Vale with “making false and misleading claims about the safety of its dams prior to the January 2019 collapse of its Brumadinho dam.” The SEC filed a Wells notice informing Vale of investigations in October 2021.