There are no metals resulting from the Fundao Dam collapse that pose a toxicological risk to human health
The Consolidation Report of the Human Health Risk Assessment Studies (ARSH) related to the studies conducted by Ambios and Tecnohidro in rural areas of the municipalities of Mariana and Barra Longa (MG) does not recommend the limitation of agricultural or water-consuming activities (provided that the water is treated) nor evacuation of residents. There are no metals resulting from the Fundao Dam collapse that pose a toxicological risk to human health in the areas of influence.
The ARSH was conducted to assess whether there are risks to human health in areas of these municipalities where the tailings passed in November 2015. The medical director of the Toxicological Assistance Center of the Clinical Hospital of the USP School of Medicine, Anthony Wong, clarified the main points of the studies:
In 4% of the samples collected in the areas assessed by the report, metal concentrations were recorded above the health reference values, except for Iron samples, and most of the time they are located outside the area impacted by the tailings. The report identified eight metals with exposure doses above the health reference values.
Based on the report’s conclusions, over the course of 2020 initiatives will be developed with the government of Minas Gerais and the municipalities to deepen their understanding of these values above reference.
For the report, considering the areas analyzed, 103 and 370 samples were collected by Ambios and Tecnohidro, respectively, in the river channel, surface water, water for human consumption, soil, household dust, food of plant and animal origin. The collections were performed between July 2018 and August 2019.
Only two of the metals found at exposure doses above the health reference values are related to the collapse: iron and manganese. The others – copper, cobalt, selenium, cadmium, arsenic and aluminum – are metals found in the region, located in the Iron Quadrangle. Cadmium is also present in agricultural fertilizers. Arsenic was found in two samples (fruits and tubers) outside the area affected by the collapse.
The relationship is as follows:
- Iron: in sediment, soil and household dust in 41 samples
• Manganese: in sediment and soil in 8 samples
• Cadmium: in soil and household dust in 3 samples
• Aluminum: in soil, in 2 samples
• Cobalt: in soil, in 2 samples
• Arsenic: in fruits and tubers, in 2 samples
• Copper: in household dust, in 1 sample
• Selenium: vegetable food (egg), in 1 sample
Identified metals are elements with low skin absorption. Many of these metals are essential for our body and require very high exposure doses in absorbable form to cause health problems.
The studies were subjected to checking processes to certify compliance with technical standards and quality control. The work was done by NewFields, responsible for the Consolidation Report.
In surface water and drinking water, no concentrations above the health reference values have been identified. Therefore, the report does not recommend limiting the consumption of treated water. According to a resolution of the National Environment Council (Conama), water can be used for animal watering and irrigation of crops.
Assistance to those affected
Currently, more than 70 professionals – including doctors, nurses, social workers and psychologists – hired by the Renova Foundation, are working in Mariana and Barra Longa. Assistance to those affected was started immediately after the Fundao dam collapse, with the premise of guaranteeing basic human rights – access to first aid, support and psychological care for relatives of victims and missing persons, access to information, drinking water, housing and adequate food.
As soon as the action plan for the municipality of Barra Longa is finalized, an agreement will be signed between the Renova Foundation and the municipality for further initiatives to complement the SUS (Brazilian Public Health System) actions to assist those affected.
The Renova Foundation is also responsible for building a space for mental health care for children and youth and health facilities that have been destroyed. After the emergency period, the efforts of the Health and Social Protection areas were concentrated on supporting the public management of municipalities, with actions to strengthen existing municipal structures in both clinical care and social protection.
Actions in the municipalities
In addition to the actions already taken since the dam collapse, resources will be made available to implement the following actions in Mariana and Barra Longa:
• Structure for Psychosocial Care Network/Center (Mental Health)
• Reconstruction of Basic Health Unit (UBS) in Bento Rodrigues and Paracatu de Baixo resettlements
• Training of health professionals
• Strengthening health care and medical surveillance teams
• Strengthening SUS transport infrastructure
Renova Foundation and Minas Gerais State Government also evaluate possible actions
In addition to direct support actions for health services in the municipalities of Mariana and Barra Longa, Renova is discussing proposals to strengthen compliance with toxicology demands with the State Government of MG. On the agenda are initiatives such as the improvement of regional public laboratories, training of health professionals in the affected municipalities, the review of the toxicological assessment protocol for metals and the implementation of an environmental monitoring and rehabilitation plan. In addition, the Technical Board of Health is also discussing further studies to deepen the analysis in Mariana and Barra Longa.
Access the studies on the program pages: