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Levels of and risk factors for exposure to heavy metals and hydrocarbons in the inhabitants of the communities of the Pastaza, Tigre, Corrientes and Marañón river basins of Loreto department (Peru)

01/01/2015 - 31/12/2017
Cristina O'Callaghan Gordo
Centro Nacional de Salud Ocupacional y Protección del Ambiente para la Salud (CENSOPAS), Instituto Nacional de Salud (Perú)

Oil extraction is one of the most polluting industries. It may cause extensive environmental impact that can affect health of populations living in the surrounding areas (O'Callaghan-Gordo C et al, 2016). Nevertheless, health effects among people residentially exposed to upstream oil industry contaminants have been poorly studied.

More than a thousand participants from 39 communities were selected using a two-stage stratified random selection strategy and visited between May and June 2016. Information on risk factors was collected using structured questionnaires and blood samples taken. Levels of various metals were determined in urine and blood samples using atomic absorption spectrophotometry

This study is the result of the agreement reached between the indigenous federations from the Corrientes, Pastaza, Tigre and Maranon river basins (ACODECOSPAT, FECONACOR, OPIKAFPE, FEDIQUEP, PUINAMUDT) of the northern Peruvian Amazon and the Peruvian Government to respond serious concerns about potential health effects of the environmental oil-related contamination reported in the area since the 1970s.  ISGlobal researchers co-ordinated the study together with the Ministry of Health, Peru and the Federations of indigenous people. 

The aims of this study were: (i) to estimate mean levels of metals in blood and urine in the indigenous population of the four river basins in the oil concessions areas of the northern Peruvian Amazon, and (ii) to identify the risk factors associated with higher levels, including socio-demographic, environmental, geographical, occupational, and life-style factors.

Results: High blood lead levels (BLLs) that pose a health risk were detected in the study population of indigenous people living in communities in the northern Peruvian Amazon (O'Callaghan-Gordo C et al, 2021). The highest BLLs were observed in those river basins where relative oil extraction activity and environmental levels of contaminants have been reported to be greatest. Ongoing analyses also confirm exposure to higher than expected levels of arsenic, mercury and cadmium. 


O'Callaghan-Gordo C, Rosales J, Lizárraga P, Barclay F, Okamoto T, Papoulias DM, Espinosa A, Orta-Martinez M, Kogevinas M, Astete J. Blood lead levels in indigenous peoples living close to oil extraction areas in the Peruvian Amazon. Environ Int. 2021 Sep;154:106639. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2021.106639. Epub 2021 Jun 6.

O'Callaghan-Gordo C, Flores JA, Lizárraga P, Okamoto T, Papoulias DM, Barclay F, Orta-Martínez M, Kogevinas M, Astete J. Oil extraction in the Amazon basin and exposure to metals in indigenous populations. Environ Res. 2018 Apr;162:226-230. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2018.01.013. Epub 2018 Feb 4.

Orta-Martínez M, Rosell-Melé A, Cartró-Sabaté M, O'Callaghan-Gordo C, Moraleda-Cibrián N, Mayor P. First evidences of Amazonian wildlife feeding on petroleum-contaminated soils: A new exposure route to petrogenic compounds? Environ Res. 2018 Jan;160:514-517. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2017.10.009. Epub 2017 Nov 2.

O'Callaghan-Gordo C, Orta-Martínez M, Kogevinas M.Health effects of non-occupational exposure to oil extraction. Environ Health. 2016 Apr 26;15:56. doi: 10.1186/s12940-016-0140-1.


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1,278,603 €

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