High lead concentrations found in Amazonian wildlife
It is in industrialised countries and regions of the world where one can find the highest concentrations of lead, the world’s most widespread neurotoxical accumulative metal. Thus, it was presumed that the Amazon, the world’s largest expanse of tropical rainforest containing the highest levels of biocultural and cultural diversity, would contain a low amount of urban or industrial contaminants due to its remoteness and low human impact.
A group of researchers from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology and the Department of Animal Health and Anatomy at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB), and the Central University of Catalonia/Vic University, for the first time have evaluated lead concentrations and isotopic fingerprints in free-ranging wildlife in remote areas of the Peruvian Amazon.
High concentrations of lead were found in the livers of Amazon wild mammals and birds, animals which are consumed daily by the local indigenous population. These values are higher than those observed among wild animals found in industrialised countries. The presence of this unexpectedly high level of lead in Amazonian wildlife poses a health risk for the local population, which relies on subsistence hunting.
The researchers also demonstrated that the main sources of lead are the extended use of lead-based ammunition, as well as pollution related to oil extraction. The toxic compounds entered the trophic chain mainly with the advance of oil extraction activities.