Living in poisoning environments: Invisible risks and human adaptation

Arriaza, Bernardo; Amarasiriwardena, Dulasiri; Standen, Vivien; Yáñez, Jorge; Van Hoesen, John; Figueroa, Leonardo

Keywords: arseniasis, archeology of the invisible, natural contamination, poisoning environments


This article describes the hidden natural chemical contaminants present in a unique desert envi-ronment and their health consequences on ancient populations. Currently, millions of people are affected worldwide by toxic elements such as arsenic. Using data gathered from Atacama Desert mummies, we discuss long-term exposure and biocultural adaptation to toxic elements. The rivers that bring life to the Atacama Desert are paradoxically laden with arsenic and other minerals that are invisible and tasteless. High intake of these toxic elements results in severe health and behavioral problems, and even death. We demonstrate that Inca colonies, from Camarones 9 site, were significantly affected by chemical contaminants in their food and water. It appears however, some modern-day Andean populations resist the elevated levels of arsenic exposure as a result of positive selection mediated via the arsenic methyltransferase enzyme and display more tolerance to high chemical doses. This article further debate the effects of nat-ural pollution and biocultural adaptation of past populations.

Más información

Volumen: 27
Editorial: Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Fecha de publicación: 2018
Página de inicio: 188
Página final: 196
Idioma: Inglés
Financiamiento/Sponsor: FONDECYT 1170120

DOI: 10.1002/evan.21720

Notas: WOS, ISI