Suriname Indigenous Health Fund (SIHF)


2004 to 2006 Research and Formative Work of SIHFund


Twenty-two year-old Randy Baldewijn painted this 7-foot by 50-foot mural entitled, "Labamba" on a wall in Paramaribo. Like composers of the namesake music style who are talented wordsmiths, Randy took a situation and painted a message in which he commented on the change that is occurring in Suriname, the festive side of life on one side and a struggle by the dispossessed on the other. When asked about the people in the middle Randy said, "they are in transition and they are pointing to the left". Randy's mural includes jokes and insults to the musicians, dancers, characters in the murals and observers. The figure at the far right is the artist. The mural was painted over a macabe mural that Randy did first of skeletons on a black background.


SIHFund Meeting at the community of Kwakoegron, 20 June 2006

SIHFund purchased 2 durotanks with donations from the Mennonite Community in Seattle. The Bestuurs Opzichter (BO, local government representative) would make sure that one of the bins would be sent to Commissariskondre. There was some discussion about where to place the bin to ensure equal and fair access. The next day the location of the water bin would be decided through a community meeting. The recipients expressed gratitude for the water bin. Yet it was noted that the communities of Kwakoegron and Commissariskondre have approximately 350 households together. Moreover, there is a third village in this cluster; named Makkakriki. Hence community members noted that the capacity of one duro-tank will be insufficient to meet the needs of all three communities needs. The meetingo participants wrote a letter to SIHF to ask for more water bins.



Kwakoegron, District of Brokopondo, Suriname June 20, 2006

Main objectives:

(1) Evaluate impacts of the recent flooding in the Suriname interior on the villages of Kwakoegron and Commissariskondre

(2) Monitor use and results of the cyanide test kits

(3) Assess other existing needs in the communities

Suriname Indigenous Health Fund - Suriname Team: Marieke Heemskerk (anthropologist), Dave (Logistic field officer), Brian (driver)

Suriname Indigenous Health Fund - US Team: Sarah Augustine (Director), Dan Peplow (Ecotoxicology and Public Health)


Early June 2006 the interior of Suriname suffered from elevated water levels and subsequent flooding of many forest villages. In some villages only the roofs of the houses were still to be seen above the water, and many Indigenous peoples and Maroons have lost their crops. The government has installed a crisis team that is in charge of aid efforts. Food packages are still being distributed to the main affected villages. In part due to inefficient financial management, however, the crisis centre is already running out of money, while many communities continue to need assistance. The Suriname Indigenous Health Fund (SIHF) team wanted to assess flood-related damage in the Maroon villages of Kwakoegron and Commissariskondre; communities with which it has established a close relationship over the past 2 years. In addition, the team wanted to use this opportunity to monitor the application of the cyanide test kit that were left during the last visit. One kit had been left with either one of the mentioned villages to enable the people to monitor their water quality. We wanted to know if the kits were actually used, how often, and what the results had been. Due to poor conditions travel was difficult. Upon our arrival and explination of the reasons of our visit, Belle, the local healthcare worker, called several community members together. About 20 people attended the meeting, one of whom was the Bestuurs Opzichter (local government representative).

Meeting results:

Community members were happy to see us back. They asked about Dr. Peplow and Sarah Augustine. MH explained the purposes of the meeting: (1) assess impacts of the recent flooding, and (2) evaluate use of the cyanide testing kit. It also was mentioned that (3) SIHF was sending two large water bins (durotanks) for the villages of Kwakoegron and Commissariskondre.

1. Needs arisen due to the recent flooding

When asked about their needs, people said that access to clean drinking water was their main priority. Access to safe drinking water is a recurrent problem. The flood caused a lack of drinking water throughout the interior. The Kwakoegron clinic registered more than usual cases of diarrhea and fever among children, which is a leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age. Also, people's subsistence garden plots have were flooded and several households have lost most of this seasons' harvest, particularly such crops as tayer, cassava, and plantain. Villagers use different strategies to collect drinking water. In the rainy season, women place tiles and buckets underneath water streams, such as those coming from the roof. There is an ancient water system, which was built at the time that the village was created; more than 100 years ago. The stone barrel is now leaking. In the dry season, people depend on the river water, which is not clean due to pollution from mining and logging enterprises upstream. About seven years ago, a water project was initiated by an organization on the request of the local women's group 'u yeei u seepi' (litt: 'we help ourselves'). It consisted of a generator powered water pump, which was to pump water from a clean water source to several village taps. This project, however, was poorly executed. Community members complained that the water was not clean,because the well was not deep enough. Moreover, there is no fuel in the village to run the generator that powered the system. Approximately two years ago Kwakoegron submitted an application for a better water project with the Community Development Fund Suriname, a local NGO. To date the community has not received a response. Potential solutions identified by the SIHF team: Clean and repair existing cement barrels, and replace broken taps More durotanks A more advanced water system, preferable driven on solar power. This would be a longer term project and require the training of people in solar panel and system maintenance. Such a system could acquire its water from an underground water source or else filter and clean river water. The city of Amsterdam recently funded comparable projects along the upper Suriname river.

2. Cyanide testing

Belle tested the water quality three times; all three times the result was negative. She had received the second cyanide testing kit for Commissariskonde but not yet sent it on. Community members have not seen any new signs of pollution.

3. Handing over the water bins

MH formally handed over the two water bins to the BO. He would make sure that one of the bins would be sent to Commissariskondre. There was some discussion about where to place the bin to ensure equal and fair access. The BO did not want to have the bin at his terrain to prevent jealousy. The next day the location of the water bin would be decided through a community meeting. The recipients expressed gratitude for the water bin. Yet it was noted that the communities of Kwakoegron and Commissariskondre have approximately 350 households together. Moreover, there is a third village in this cluster; named Makkakriki. Hence community members noted that the capacity of one duro-tank will be insufficient to meet the needs of all three communities needs. The meetingo participants wrote a letter to SIHF to ask for more water bins.

4. Cambior

During the previous visit to the community of Kwakoegron, it was mentioned that Cambior would come talk about its mining methods. This visit had not yet happened because Cambior has been on strike for several days.




* * 2006 - 2007

The SIH Fund Team will support Kwakoegron's Three-Point Action Plan


1. Monitor community for changes in mercury exposure

2. Perform health assessments to measure effects of mercury exposure

3. Develop fish advisory to interrupt major routes of mercury exposure


Kwakoegron Speaks:


Amerikaanse Wetenschapper Gevlucht uit Suriname

De West Newspaper, Paramaribo, Suriname, 19 July 2005

Na bedreiging ATM: Amerikaanse wetenschapper gevlucht uit Suriname

David Peplow, de Amerikaanse mijnafval-ecotoxicoloog, die met zijn Lumex Mercury Analyser' een te hoog kwikgehalte boven Paramaribo en bij dorpelin-gen te Kwakoegron heeft vastgesteld, is vorige week in allerijl vertrokken uit Suriname uit vrees voor zijn leven en zijn apparatuur.

-door Rachael van der Kooye-

Hij voelde zich bedreigd en ge´ntimideerd door John Courtar, hoofd Medisch Bureau van het ministerie van Arbeid, Techno-logische Ontwikkeling en Milieu (ATM). Deze zou hem tijdens een vergadering met de commissie Onderzoek Goudverwer-kingsbedrijven behoorlijk hebben ge´ntimideerd na de publicatie van zijn onderzoek, dat uitwees dat het kwikgehalte boven de Domineestraat 6000 nanogram kwik per kubieke meter lucht is, wat zes maal hoger is dan de toegestane hoeveelheid en dus zeer schadelijk is voor de volksgezondheid. Volgens Peplow belde Courtar, de dag na het desbetreffend bericht in De West van 12 juni 2005, hem op en nodigde hem uit voor een gesprek. Tijdens dit gesprek - er waren vijf mensen in de ge-spreksruimte aanwezig - wilde Courtar de methodologie die hij heeft gebruikt, weten. Courtar was ontevreden over de manier waarop de cijfers naar buiten zijn gebracht. Hij sprak over schade die het bericht kan aanrichten, omdat het kan worden over-genomen door de internationale pers, aldus Peplow. Volgens hem zei Courtar dat hij geen toestemming had om metingen te verrichten in het land en hij wilde weten wie zijn contactpersonen waren. "I don't want to say who the contact persons were, but I have had contact with those persons for over a year," zei hij. Volgens hem hebben zijn contact personen geen woord gezegd.

OORZAAK BEDREIGING: De oorzaak van de bedreiging is volgens Peplow het onderzoeksresultaat. De commissie was in de eindfase van een onder-zoek naar de goudverwerkingsbedrijven in de binnenstad en stond op het punt rapport uit te brengen aan de minister van ATM. Door de publicatie van het onderzoeksresultaat van Peplow is volgens hem gebleken, dat de gegevens in het rapport van de commissie niet kloppen met de cijfers die hij heeft geproduceerd. De ecotoxicoloog zei, dat de cijfers die hij bekend heeft gemaakt een tipje van de ijsberg zijn, omdat hij op bepaalde plaatsen hogere cijfers heeft aangetroffen. Volgens hem heeft Courtar tijdens het gesprek drie keer verwezen naar zijn veiligheid en die van zijn apparatuur. Courtar zou hem hebben gezegd, dat zijn veilig vertrek uit het land en de veiligheid van zijn apparatuur afhangt van hoe co÷peratief hij was. Na het ge-sprek heeft Peplow dan ook direct zijn apparatuur verscheept en het eerstvolgende vliegtuig gepakt via Nederland terug naar Washington.

SAMENWERKING: Hij sprak de hoop uit te kunnen terugkomen naar Suriname.Volgens hem willen hij en Sarah Augestine, een sociale wetenschapper, die ook in het land was, maar eerder vertrok, meewerken in de pogingen van het land zich te richten op ont-wikkelingsvraagstukken en ze willen programma's ontwikkelen die leiden tot conclusies. "There is a lot work for everybody. The problem of mercury is a dangerous problem and everybody needs to participate in the solution . We want to support the communities. They play a central role in finding solutions and we want to support them in the process," zei Peplow. Zijn terugkomst hangt af van een uitnodiging van lokale gemeenschappen die zijn ge´nteresseerd in de bijdrage die hij kan leveren in hun ontwikkeling. "We have no agenda. We gain nothing. It is a public health activity," zei Peplow. Volgens hem is het belangrijk, dat een belans wordt verschaft tussen bron en technologie aan de ene kant en aan de andere kant de gemeenschap. De lokale gemeenschap van Kwakoegron is ge´nteresseerd in de informatie en ze is van plan uit te nodigen om een uitgebreider onderzoek te doen naar het kwikgehalte bij de dorpelingen, zodat zij voor zichzelf hun gezondheidseffecten kunnen bepalen en hoe ze de bron van blootstelling aan kwik kunnen verminderen.

American Scientist Escaped from Surinam

De West Newspaper, Paramaribo, Suriname, 19 July 2005

-Translated from Original in Dutch-

After threat from ATM: American scientist escaped from Surinam

[Daniel] Peplow, the American mine waste-ecotoxicologist, with a Lumex Mercury Analyzer to measure high mercury content in Paramaribo and in the village of Kwakoegron during the previous week, in great haste left from Surinam from fear for his life and his equipment.

-by Rachael van der Kooye-

He was threatened and intimidated by John Courtar, head Medical Desk of the Ministry of Work, Technological Development and Environment (ATM). During a meeting with the commission performing a survey of gold-shop operations intimidated him after the publication of its investigation that showed that the mercury content above the street measured 6000 nanogram mercury per cubic meter meter air is, what six time higher is than reference limits and thus harmful to the public health. According to Peplow, Courtar, the day after it relevant story in De West of 12 June 2005, called him to a meeting. During the meeting there were five men present - and they discussed the methodology used. Courtar discredited the methodology that was used. Courtar was dissatisfied over the manner on which the figures to the outside have been communicated. He spoke over damage that the message can cause, because it can become picked-up by the International press, according to Peplow. According to Courtar he had no permission to make the measurements, in the country and he had to know who its contact persons were. "I don't want to say who the contact persons were, but I have had contact with those persons for over a year," He said. According to him, contact persons have said no word.

CAUSE OF THREAT: The cause of the threat is according to Peplow are the research results. A commission was in the end phase of a survey of the gold-buying businesses in the downtown area and was preparing to present the report to Minister of ATM. Through the publication ot the research resulst of Peplow is appeared according to him, that the conclusions in the report of the Commissions do not agree with the figures that he produced. The ecotoxicologist said that the figures that he knows is the tip of an iceberg, because he on particular places higher figures has found. According to him, Courtar has referred during the conversation three times to his safety and that of his equipment. Courtar said him, that his safe departure out the country and the safety of his equipment depends of how cooperative he was. After they spoke, Peplow shipped his equipment back and took the next airplane via the Netherlands back to Washington state.

COOPERATION: He expressed the desire to return to Surinam. According to him he and Sarah Augestine, a social scientist that was also in the country, but before left, cooperate in the attempts of the country to self-direct on [grafted-wikkelingsvraagstukken] and they want programs develop that lead to conclusions. "There is a lot work for everybody. The problem of mercury is a dangerous one and everybody needs to participate in the solution . We want to support the communities. They play a central role in finding solutions and we want to support them in the process," said Peplow. Their return depends on an invitation from local communities that are interested in the support that they can furnish in theirefforts toward development. "We have no agenda. We gain nothing. It is a public health activity," said Peplow. According to him it is important, that a balance be provided between science and technology on the one side and on the other side the community. The local community of Kwakoegron is interested in mercury analyses and asked for support to do investigations to monitor changes in the mercury content at the villagers, so that they for themselves can determine what healths effects can fixed and what they can do so their exposure can be decreased.


Dorpelingen Kwakoegron verontrust over kwikniveau


De West Newspaper, Paramaribo, Suriname, 13 July 2005

-door Rachael van der Kooye-

David Peplow, 'mine waste' ecotoxicoloog, heeft af-gelopen zaterdag bij de lokale gemeenschap van het dorp Kwakoegron aan de Saramaccarivier een on-derzoek gedaan naar het kwikniveau in het lichaam van dorpelingen en hen informatie gegeven over de betekenis van het onderzoeksresultaat. Van 22 mensen (19 vrouwe-lijk en 3 mannelijk) werden haarmonsters genomen en geanalyseerd met een 'Lu-mex portable mercury analy-ser'. Het kwikniveau bleek hoger te zijn dan dat van destedelingen in Paramaribo, dat gemiddeld 1 is.Van twee dorpelingen waren de kwik-niveaus boven het normale niveau van 0 - 10 kwikdelen per 1.000.000 draadjes haar. Een driejarig kind bleek 11.7 en een ex-gouddelver bleek 20.1 kwikdelen te heb-ben. De hoge niveaus zetten de mensen aan het denken en in een vergadering met de onderzoeker brachten zij hun bezorgdheid naar voren. In 1998 was het kwikniveau van alle zwangere vrouwen gemeten en bij sommigen bleek dit nu te zijn gestegen. Het onderzoeksresultaat werd hen toen wel bekend gemaakt, maar verdere informatie ontbrak. Ze waren blij, dat ze nu de gelegenheid hadden om meer infor-matie te verkrijgen over de onderzoeksresultaat. Ze wilden weten hoe ze van een hoog kwikniveau konden afkomen en hoe het kwik in de vissen en in het menselijk lichaam terecht komt. De onderzoeker was ervan overtuigd. dat de mensen zelf het probleem kunnen oplossen wanneer ze weten wat het probleem is. Hij legde hen uit, dat kwik normaal in het lichaam van de mens voorkomt tot een gehalte van 10 kwikdelen per 1.000.000 draadjes haar. Wanneer dit gehalte stijgt kan de gezondheid worden aangetast. Indien het kwikniveau te hoog blijkt te zijn, dan moeten de mensen op zoek gaan naar de oorzaak van de blootstelling en deze verminderen.

BLOOTSTELLING: Uit de vergadering tussen de onderzoeker en de dorpelingen van Kwakoegron bleek, dat de dorpelingen zoals velen in het binnenland - hun prote´ne halen uit vis, wat dagelijks voorkomt in hun dieet. Het verhoogde kwikniveau kan volgens de onderzoeker komen door de vis die ze dagelijks nuttigen. Kwik hoopt zich namelijk op in de voedselketen. Kleine vissen eten plankton, waarop het kwik uit bijvoor-beeld de goudvelden zich heeft afgezet. Het kwik hoopt zich op in de vis telkens als hij de plankton eet. De grotere vissen eten de kleinere vissen en hoe meer zij eten hoe meer kwik zich in de vissen ophoopt. Uiteindelijk eet de mens de grote vissen en na jarenlange op-hoping in het lichaam, wordt het opgehoopte kwik giftig en be´nvloedt het zenuw-stelsel. Het effect van kwik is: doofheid, blindheid, ongecontroleerde trilllingen van armen en benen, slapeloosheid, misselijkheid, impotentie en gehandicapte kinderen. Volgens Peplow is kwik gevaarlijker bij kinderen van 0 tot 5 jaar. Het kwik tast hun hersenen aan. Ze leren later praten en kunnen niet goed horen en niet goed leren op school. Na de uiteenzetting van de onderzoeker, waren de vrouwen opgelucht zichzelf en hun kinderen te hebben laten testen. Ze concludeerden, dat de oorzaak van de blootstelling, de vis (anjoemara, koebie, pireng, tucunari) is die ze consumeren. Uit eerdere onderzoeken naar het kwikniveau in vispopulaties, hebben ze geleerd dat roofvissen een hoog kwikniveau bevatten. Ze besloten de blootstelling aan kwik te verminderen door geen vissen meer te eten met een hoog kwikniveau. Ze nodigden de onderzoeker uit het dorp nog eens te bezoeken en een uitgebreider onderzoek te doen, zodat een ieder weet waar hij aan toe is.

TECHNIEK: Wat de dorpelingen volgens Peplow ontbreekt is de toegang tot de technologie om voor zichzelf het kwikniveau te meten. De techniek werd hen beschikbaar gesteld en ze hadden de mogelijkheid te praten over het probleem en te komen met een actieplan. Ze hebben volgens Peplow ook geleerd een gezondheidsevaluatie te doen om te weten of het kwik dat in hun lichaam is, een gezondheids probleem veroorzaakt. Ze weten nu welke vissen beter zijn dan de andere, welke ze moeten mijden en welke ze moeten incorporeren in hun dieet. De 'analyser' kan Peplow niet achterlaten, maar Suriname zou volgens hem ÚÚn kunnen aanschaffen. Het kwikniveau in de mens kan dan routinematig worden ge-meten en in de gaten worden gehouden, waardoor veran-deringen kunnen worden aangebracht gedurende een bepaalde tijd. De meting kan geschieden net zoals de meting naar malaria bij het Bureau voor Openbare Gezondheidszorg (BOG), aldus Peplow. Volgens hem is de 'analyser' de enige die in Suriname zal werken, omdat die overal mee te nemen is - tot naar het binnenland - en de enige waarmee buiten een laboratorium kan worden geopereerd. Er worden geen chemicaliŰn gebruikt. Vele analysers hebben sterke zuren nodig, zijn ingewikkeld en tijdrovend. Deze analyzer is snel en goedkoop. Het apparaat kost US$ 30.000. Het kan analyseren kwik in lucht, bodem, haar, urine, bloed en vetweefsels van vissen

ONDERZOEK: Peplow bespreekt milieustudies over verlaten mijnen en onderzoekt mijneffecten op publieke gezondheid. Vorig jaar werkte hij vijf maanden als milieu-adviseur bij de Amerikaanse ambassade en bracht in die periode een bezoek aan Kwakoegron. Hij merkte toen, dat de mensen in het dorp zich veel zorgen maakten over kwik. Vandaar dat hij besloot terug te gaan, hun kwikniveau te meten en hen informatie hierover te geven. "It is to know when there is a problem. If the damage is already done you can't reverse it, but you can make sure that it will not become worse, by reducing the exposure," zei Peplow. Volgens hem is er onlangs in Amerika ook een dergelijk onderzoek bij vrouwen geweest. Het Amerikaanse Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) heeft toen haarmonsters genomen en het bleek, dat 1 op de 6 vrouwen een te hoog kwik-niveau had. Studies werden daarom gedaan naar de bronnen, waaraan deze vrouwen zijn blootgesteld en hoe die te verminderen. Zo zijn de onderzoekers te weten gekomen, dat bepaalde vissen zoals zalm in bepaalde gebieden een te hoog kwikniveau hebben, dus eten de vrouwen in bepaalde gebieden geen zalm meer. "In some states the consumption of certain fishes are avoided and in some they are emphasized," zei Peplow. Volgens hem benadrukt het EPA ook dat mensen niet hoeven te stoppen met het eten van vis, omdat vis in hun dieet voorkomt. "The problem is which fish to eat and which not. Especially for terse women who need good food for their babies." zei Peplow.

Kwakoegron Village Alarmed over Mercury Level

De West Newspaper, Paramaribo, Suriname, 13 July 2005

-Translated from Original in Dutch-

-by Rachael van der Kooye-

Daniel Peplow, 'mine waste' ecotoxicologist, has finished-work Saturday with the local community from the town Kwakoegron at the Saramacca river a study, to monitor the mercury level in the bodies of villagers and to give them information on the meaning of the research results. Hair samples were taken and analyzed in 22 men (19 woman and 3 men) with a Lumex portable mercury analyser. The mercury levels appeared higher to be then that of the city-dwellers in Paramaribo. Normal levels are between 0 - 10 parts mercury per 1,000,000 . A three-year child had 11.7 and a ex-gold miner had 20.1 parts per million mercury. The elevated mercury levels have been a concern to the people and in a meeting with the researcher their concerns were brought to the front and discussed . In 1998, it was the mercury levels of all pregnant women that were measured and the levels appeared to be high. Although the monitoring results were given to them information about their significance was missing. They were glad that they now had more information over the meaning of the monitoring results. They wanted to know how they were exposed to high levels of mercury and how the mercury accumulates in fish and ends up in the human body. The researcher was convinced that the people that are affected by the problem can solve it themselves when they have enough information and they know what the problem is. He explained to them that mercury has minimum impacts in the body of people until a level of about 10 parts mercury per 1,000,000. As the mercury content rises the health can be affected. When the mercury level is too high, then people must identify the the source of the mercury and try and decrease their exposure.

EXPOSURE: From the meeting between the researcher and the villagers of Kwakoegron, it was clear that the villagers, as many in the interior, acquire most of the protein in their diet from fish. The increased mercury level can, according to the researcher, come through the fish that they daily consume. Mercury accumulates in the food chain. Small fish eat plankton that accumulate mercury from the gold fields. The mercury increases in concentration in fish when they eat the plankton. The larger fish eat the smaller fish and the more they eat the more the mercury accumulates in the fish. Similarly, when people eat the larger fish mercury accumulates in their bodies at levels higher than in the fish. Mercury in the body influences the nerveous system. The effect of mercury is: deafness, blindness, and uncontrolled tremmors, insomnia, moodiness, impotence and birth defects. According to Peplow, mercury is most dangerous in children from 0 until 5 years of age. Exposure to mercury affects the development of their brains. They may not learn talk or may have difficulty learning in school. After the discussion with the researcher, the women were relieved that they and their children had been tested. They concluded, that a potential source of exposure is that they consume contaminated fish (Anjoemara, koebie, piranha, tucunari). From earlier studies on the mercury level in fish populations, they have learned that some fish contain high levels of mercury. They decided to reduce their exposure to mercury by not eating fish with high mercury levels. They invited the researcher to come back to the town so that everyone could know the extent of their exposure.

TECHNIQUE What the villagers according to Peplow are missing is access to the technology so that it can for itself measure the mercury level. The technique was made available to them and with the results they now had the ability to discuss the problem and to develop an action plan. They learned from Peplow that health evaluations can be done to determine whether the mercury that is in their body is causing a health problem. They want to know know which fish are better to eat and which others they must avoid and which they must incorporate in their diet. The 'analyzer' cannot be left behind according to Peplow, but Surinam would be able to buy one according to him. The mercury level in people could be done routinely. The measurement could then happen much like the tests for malaria that are done by the Bureau for Public health Care (BOWED), according to Peplow. According to him the 'portable analyzer' is the only one in Surinam that will work because it can be taken anywhere, including to the interior, and is the only one that can be operated with reliability outside a laboratory. Especially since it uses no chemicals. Many analysers require the use of strong acids, are complicated and time-consuming. This analyzer is fast and cheap. The device costs US$ 30,000. It can analyze mercury in air, soil, hairr, urine, blood and tissue fromfish.

INVESTIGATION Peplow reviews environmental studies related to mines and examines mine effects on public health. Last year he worked five months as an intern and environmental advisor at the American embassy and during that period visited Kwakoegron. He returned so the people in the town could measure for themselves what problem over mercury is. That is why he decided back to go, their mercury level to measure and them information to give. "It is important to know when there is a problem. If the damage is already done you can't reverse it, but you can make sure that it will not become worse, by reducing the exposure," said Peplow. According to him there are similar results in America recently. The American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken hair samples and based on that, 1 in 6 women have a too high mercury level. Studies were done to determine the source of mercury for women and how to decrease their exposure. Researchers have determined that particular fish such as salmon in particular areas have a too high mercury level and consequently the women in particular areas eat less salmon. "In some states the consumption of certain fishes are avoided and in some they are emphasized," said Peplow According to him the EPA emphasizes also that people should not stop eating fish because fish is important in their diet and prevents malnutirition. "The problem is which fish to eat and which not. Especially for women who need good food for their babies." said Peplow.


Hoog kwikgehalte boven Paramaribo

De West Newspaper, Paramaribo, Suriname, 13 July 2005


De verbranding van goudamalgaam (verbinding tussen kwik en goud) in de bin-nenstad veroorzaakt luchtverontreiniging in Paramaribo. Een onderzoek heeft uitgewezen, dat het kwikgehalte boven Paramaribo zesmaal hoger is dan de toegestane hoeveelheid.

-door Rachael van der Kooye-

David Peplow, een mijnaf-val-eco-toxicoloog uit Washington, verrichtte het onderzoek. Hij heeft met een 'Lumex portable mercury analyser' de hoeveelheid kwik gemeten in de lucht boven Kwakoegron en ver-schillende plaatsen in Para-maribo zoals Rainville en de Domineestraat. Kwakoegron bleek 7 nanogram kwik te hebben per kubieke meter lucht, Rainville 25 nano-gram kwik, terwijl het aantal nanogrammen steeg naarma-te de kom van de stad werd genaderd. Boven de Domi-neestraat bleek 6000 nano-gram kwik per kubieke me-ter lucht te hangen. De na-tuurlijke hoeveelheid kwik in de lucht is 15 nanogram (1 gram is na-nogram). Wetenschappers gaan uit van een standaard tot 1.000 nanogram per ku-bieke meter dat wordt be-schouwd als gezond voor de mens. De grote hoeveelheid kwik in de lucht kan volgens Peplow komen door de ver- schillende goudsmederijen die goudamalgaam branden in de kom van de stad. Hij zei enkele van deze sme-derijen te hebben bezocht en te hebben gezien dat deze retorts gebruiken en zuig-kappen hebben, maar er kunnen lekkages zijn en hij weet niet of alle goudwin-kels over de juiste ver-brandingsapparatuur be-schikken.

KWIKEMISSIES: De luchtverontreiniging door kwikemissies kan scha-delijk zijn voor de gezond-heid van mens en dier. Kwik is namelijk een vloeibaar metaal dat verdampt bij ver-hitting en zo luchtverontrei-niging veroorzaakt. Volgens het United Nations Envi-ronmental Programme (UNEP) is mondiaal de hoeveelheid kwik die af-komstig is van het vrijko- van kwik op een na-tuurlijke manier ongeveer 2,110 milligram per jaar. De kwikdampen blijven ÚÚn tot twee jaar in de atmosfeer. De lucht is ÚÚn van de belangrijkste transportwegen van kwik. Onderzoeken heb-ben uitgewezen dat tien tot tachtig procent van het kwik dat in water terecht komt afkomstig is van de lucht-emissies die plaatsvinden. Volgens UNEP heeft de uitstoot van kwik tot gevolg dat het kwik zich kan af-zetten in de lokale, regionale en mondiale gebieden. Het kwik kan zich ook - afhan-kelijk van de windrichting - langs de kustvlakte afzetten, waar vele terrestrische ge-bieden (zwampen, fauna) zijn. Bij sterkere wind kan het kwik zich afzet ten in de marine ecosystemen. Als dit water verdampt dan kan het kwik door die verdamping ook verdampen en zo weer terecht komen in de lucht. Dit wordt de geochemische cyclus van kwik genoemd. Chiquita Resomardono, field officer environmental moni-toring enforcement, zegt dat Suriname ook te kampen zou kunnen hebben met een dergelijke cyclus in het Prof. Dr. Ir. W.J. van Blommen-steinstuwmeer en in de parwagebieden en zwampen aan de kust. Dit door de verbranding van goudamal-gaam in het binnenland en Paramaribo.

GEZONDHEID: De kwikgassen komen direct in het lichaam via de adem-haling. "Op het moment dat je hem inademt wordt het direct door de hersenbloed-barriŔre en placenta opge-nomen. Bij blootstelling aan hoge concentraties kan dit de dood veroorzaken," zei Resomardono. Het primair doel van de giftigheid van kwik is het aantasten van het zenuwstelsel bijvoorbeeld geheugenverlies, doofheid, blindheid, hoofdpijn, ge-dragsverandering, zenuw-trekkingen en slapeloosheid. Kwik hoopt zich op in de voedselketen. Het neemt tijd om giftig te worden. Pas na tientallen jaren is het effect te zien. Kwik is ook giftig voor de dieren, omdat het lichaam het kwik kan laten oxideren in anorganisch kwik en anorganisch kwik is giftig. Om te voorkˇmen dat de hoeveelheid kwik in de lucht stijgt, zou volgens Peplow de oorzaak van de blootstelling aan kwik moe-ten worden verminderd, zo-dra is vastgesteld waar dat zich voordoet.

High mercury content above Paramaribo

De West Newspaper, Paramaribo, Suriname, 12 July 2005

-Translated from Original in Dutch-

The burning of gold amalgam (a mixture of mercury and gold) in the downtown area causes air-pollution in Paramaribo. An investigation has shown that the mercury content above Paramaribo is higher then natural background levels.

-by Rachael van der Kooye-

[Daniel] Peplow, a mine-waste ecotoxicologist from Washington, performed the investigation. He measured with a 'Lumex portable mercury' the quantity of mercury in the air above Kwakoegron and different places in Paramaribo as Rainville and the Dominee street. At Kwakoegron there appeared in air 7 nanogram mercury per cubic meter, Rainville 25 nanogram mercury, while the number nanogrammen ascended as the center of the city became approached. Above the Domineestraat, 6000 nanogram mercury per cubic meter were detected in the air to hang. The natural quantity of mercury in the air is 15 nanogram (1 gram is nanogram). Scientists use standards that range from [30 to 50.000 nanogram mercury per cubic meter] as limits for good health in people. The large quantity mercury in the air can come according to Peplow through the different goldshops that burn gold-mercury amalgam in the center of the city. He said many if not most goldshops have and employ fume hoods and retorts to capture the mercury vapor that is released when the amalgam is burned, however, there may be leakages they are not aware and the equipment may be in need of repair.

MERCURY EMISSIONS: The air-pollution mercury emissions can be hazardous to the health of people and animals. Mercury is a metal that normally exists as liquid but if heated turns to vapor and can cause widespread. According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) mercury pollution is a global problem and the quantity mercury that is being released into the atmosphere is approximately 2,110 kilogram per year. The mercury vapors remain from one to two years in the atmosphere. The air is one of the most important pathways for exposure to mercury. Studies have shown that between ten and eighty per cent of the mercury that is found in water [in areas not impacted by direct inputs from sources like mining] comes from the deposition of mercury that originated in air missions. According to UNEP local mercury levels can be a consequence of mercury itself [and the conditions found in the environment]. The mercury levels in an area can also be dependent on factors such as wind direction. Strong wind currents and erosion can carry the mercury into the the marine ecosystemen. If mercury evaporates then it can reemter the atmosphere thus creating a geochemical cycle. Chiquita Resomardono, field officer for environmental moni-toring and enforcement, says according to Prof. Dr. W.J. van Blommensteinstuwmeer in a pair of risk assessments in swamps along the coast Surinam also has to contend with such a this cycle of mercury release and deposition., which is accentuated through the burning of gold and mercury amalgam in the interior and in Paramaribo.

HEALTH The mercury gases come direct in the body via the breath haling. "On the moment that you inhale the mercury it is taken-up then crosses the blood-barrier and placenta. Exposure at high concentrations can cause death, said" Resomardono. The primary target of the mercury in the body is the nervous system where it can cause, for instance, memory loss, deafness, blindness, headache, change of behavior, tremors and insomnia. Most exposure occurs when ercury enters the food chain. It takes time for inorganic mercury to become poisonous and it can take decades before the effects to be seen. According to Peplow, inorganic mercury in the air, generally considered less toxic and less readily absorbed, is a risk to health because it can be absorbed directly into the blood through the lungs.




by Marieke Heemskerk, Anthropologist,

Kwakoegron women requested the LUMEX portable mercury analyzer be brought to their community so they could monitor mercury levels in hair and determine whether exposure to the toxic pollutant from gold mining is increasing or decreasing. Community members collected samples from 22 people. .A LUMEX portable mercury analyzer was used to measure mercury levels on-site and estimate exposure. After discussing the results, community representatives presented a three-point action plan to address their concerns about mercury exposure. They are requesting the following three items: 1) Periodic Monitoring for Mercury, 2) Health Assessments, and 3) Fish Advisories.
* Identities of people in photographs have been obscured and names witheld to protect them from reprisal.

KWAKOEGROEN, DISTRICT OF BROKOPONDO, SURINAME (July 9, 2005) The Suriname Indigenous Health Fund Team met with the residents of Kwakoegron to assess community needs and aspirations with regard to management of mercury levels and develop a community-based long-term strategy to meet those needs and aspirations. The team also explained to the community the various ways in which Suriname Indigenous Health Fund team (SIHF team) might help the community deal with the mercury problem. The SIHF team demonstrated use of the mercury self-analyzer and provide mercury-related information based on questions from the community. The SIHF team also developed a strategy for further work based on a community needs assessment. The Suriname Health Foundation Team included Daniel Peplow (ecotoxicologist), Sarah Augustine (sociologist), Marieke Heemskerk (anthropologist), Rachael van der Kooye (journalist).

Background: On July 9, 2005, the SIHFT team visited the village of Kwakoegron, located along the Saramacca river approximately 2 Ż hours driving south of Suriname's capital city of Paramaribo. Kwakoegron is a small village of approximately 25 households. Its inhabitants are Maroons; the descendants of escaped African slaves who established independent societies in the Suriname rainforest in the 17th and 18th centuries. The village features a health clinic operated by Primary Health Care Suriname (better known as Medical Mission or Medizebs), an elementary school, a telephone centre (Phone nr: 08804609) and local government offices. Kwakoegron was selected as an intervention village because it had been part of a previous mercury assessment effort by the US Embassy in Suriname. Because the results of this assessment had not been shared with the community, the SIHF team decided to return to initiate a community-based mercury monitoring and reduction program. The community had been informed about the SIHF team visit during a preliminary meeting and a follow-up phone call. Unfortunately, at the day of the meeting, the local health care worker, the kapitein (traditional village head), and the Bestuurs Opzichter (local government representative) were not in the village.

Meeting Results: Community members welcomed the opportunity to learn more about the mercury problem and have their levels tested. They accounted that several mercury assessments had taken place before, one of which had focused on pregnant women. While they had obtained the results of some of these measurement sessions, the scientists or health care workers had not explained to them what these numbers meant. Nor were prior assessments part of a longer term strategy to reduce exposure. It is apparent that fish is the community's main source of protein. Obtaining animal products from the city is cumbersome and expensive, and bush meat is sparse. People tend to not fish selectively, but eat whatever they catch or may buy from neighbors. Some people obtain fish from the Brokopondo Lake, which is likely to contain high levels of mercury. Exposure from breathing-in mercury during the gold extraction process is an additional risk for gold miners, but breath samples were not taken.

Community members showed basic knowledge of the mercury cycle. They knew, for example, that they acquired mercury from eating fish, and that carnivorous fish (roofvis) had higher levels. How mercury had entered the food chain to start with, what mercury could do to people, and how to reduce exposure, was not well understood. The SIHF team emphasized that people should not stop eating fish, as excluding this important source of protein from the diet would create other health problems. Yet people should be careful with high-risk species, particularly in the diet of young children. People's questions after the demonstration session showed they wanted to learn more about the mercury problem and do something about it. They not only wanted to know their numbers, but also what those numbers meant scientifically (e.g. what measurement units are used?) and practically (e.g. what does this mean for my child's health?), and how they could be brought down.

Kwakoegron's Three Point Action Plan: The meeting was concluded with the drafting of a letter, in which the community asked the SIHF team to return to help address these needs. Based on their test results and explanatory information, the community identified three specific needs. Community self-identified needs:

(1) Facility for self-monitoring mercury levels. This facility should work like the Public Health office's (Bureau Openbare Gezondheidszorg; BOG) malaria testing center; a place (in the city) where one can go to have one's levels checked and receive the results within a day. Access to a Mercury Testing Center would help people keep track of their own records and those of their children, and help them evaluate the effects of dietary and behavioral changes. The mercury self analyzer should be made available to this Center.

(2) Health tests. Numbers on mercury content in one's hair, breath, blood, or urine tell little about the health effects of mercury. Simple neurological and motor skills tests will help assess these health affects, which are modified by other health conditions (e.g. alcoholism, endemic malaria), physiological characteristics (e.g. weight, age), and exposure period, among other factors. A possible mercury mitigation program should focus on minimizing adverse health conditions, particularly in very young (< 5 years of age) children.

(3) Risk assessment of fish. In order to be able to adjust their diets to eating low-risk species, community members believed it would be useful to measure the mercury levels in various fish species from different locations, and in different seasons. Conclusions:

The community of Kwakoegron is interested in the development of a strategy for mercury mitigation, and wants to actively participate in such a strategy. It has requested SIHF to return to help set up a long-term mercury monitoring and mitigation program.



in Paramaribo, Suriname

July 2005


Gold shop workers and people in the surrounding areas in Paramaribo are exposed directly to mercury in the air. Airborne mercury also affects people indirectly when it concentrates and magnifies in the food chain. We used a Lumex RA915+ portable analyzer to measure Hg levels in air. The purpose of the study was to provide data about Hg vapor emissions and the risks they pose to the surrounding population and environment. Air mercury levels in Paramaribo (551 ng/m3, range 0-37,790) exceed the limit for public exposure and can cause central nervous system damage. Deposition of Hg on land and water and its conversion to inorganic and methylmercury can lead to its biomagnification in the foodchain. An estimated 1.2o103 kg (1.2 metric tons) Hg are deposited in Paramaribo each year. The unborn fetus, the newborn, and young children are especially susceptible because of the sensitivity of the developing nervous system.

Keywords: Suriname, Paramaribo, Gold Shops, Mercury, Emission, Deposition, Biomagnification, Health, Environment



The Lumex portable mercury analyzer being packed for shipment from the U.S. to Suriname. The analyzer, along with technical support from the Suriname Indigenous Health Fund, will be used by indigenous health care providers to self-diagnose the effects of mercury on their community's health and the environment.


Communities will Self-Diagnose Effects of Mercury from Mining

SEATTLE, WA (6/11/05) - Until now, Indigenous people living in Suriname could not say what effect 30 tons of mercury released each year from goldmines has on their community's health and the enviornment. Now,

a state-of-the-art portable mercury analyzer will be provided, along with technical support, by the Suriname Indigenous Health Fund (SIHFund) from Seattle, Washington (United States) to indigenous primary health care providers in the remote interior Greenstone Belt region where re mining occurs. According to Sarah Augustine, co-director of the SIHFund, 'the impacted communities can diagnose for themselves whether mercury is polluting their environment, contaminating the foodchain and is causing adverse health effects'. Indigenous communities in Suriname rely heavily on fish as a soruce of protein in their diet.

Indigenous Amerindian and Maroon communities in the region where mercury pollution from thousands small-scale artisanal gold mining occurs have had negative experiences with research projects due to the lack of community control, lack of local benefits, and interpretation of data without involving the effected communities. Environmental and public health effects of small-scale gold mining are not equally distributed, since political power, access to natural resources, and the social production of pollutants are asymmetrically distributed, leading to disproportionate risks to the indigenous communities.

In response, the SIHFund provides a small-scale artisanal gold mining occurs have had negative experiences with

research projects due to the lack of community control, lack of local benefits, and interpretation of datawithout involving the effected communities. Environmental and public health effects of small-scale gold mining are not equally distributed, since political power, access to natural resources, and the social production of pollutants are asymmetrically framework to build partnerships between Indigenous communities and the non-Indigenous research community. Augustine said, 'based on our experience in rural communities effected by mining in the US, access to the analyzers and scientific expertise offered by SIHFund should enable the indigenous and tribal communities in Suriname to identify the training, research and policy needs that are priorities from their own perspective - this is the first step in gaining control of the research and intervention processes and improving the quality of life in their communities'. ###