Mercury’s toxic impact is often highest among pregnant and lactating women, fetuses, and children. Women chronically exposed to elemental mercury, especially as a vapor, suffer an increased risk of spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, and fetal deformations, all in the absence of overt signs of toxicity. Even after birth, neonatal poisoning often continues as the mother passes the toxin to her baby through their milk.
Children are especially at risk. Not only do they have potentially higher levels of heavy metal exposure than adults due to hand to mouth activity, but the likelihood and severity of adverse health effects are greater as well because their brains and neurological systems are still developing. The risks in this respect are significant in Huancavelica, as nearly all of the homes in our study have children and or infants living in them.