Mercury at apparent ritual site poses health risk

Health officials warn of mercury contamination

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MIAMI - Miami-Dade residents are being warned after mercury was found at the site of an apparent ritual, along with a human skull and animal remains.

The Miami-Dade County Health Department said the area near Northwest 170th Street and Northwest 107th Avenue is believed to be contaminated with mercury.

PHOTOS: Human remains found at apparent ritual site

Health officials said the area apparently had been used for some sort of religious rituals, and that a small area of the site had an elevated level of mercury.

Mercury can pose health risks. Signs of acute toxicity from exposure to mercury may include fever, fatigue, pneumonitis (shortness of breath or difficulty breathing), profuse vomiting and diarrhea that is often bloody, dehydration and shock, decreased urine production leading to renal failure and possibly death.

Health officials said that delayed toxicity symptoms can occur more than a month after exposure. Those symptoms could include numbness and tingling in areas of the body, headaches, instability while walking, speech disorder, narrowing of vision as though one is in a tunnel, blindness and hearing impairment.

Earlier this week, Richard Couto, of Animal Recovery Mission, reported finding a human skull surrounded by animal remains in the same area. Aventura police Officer Nelson Reyes said the items found indicated that someone was likely practicing a ritual mixing two religions, Santeria and Palo Mayombe.

Couto said law enforcement officers told him the site had high levels of mercury, and some people who handled the human bones got sick. Reyes said a practitioner of those religions may have used mercury as a "speeding-up" agent in the ritual.

Anyone who may have been in the area, especially pregnant women and women of childbearing age, is urged to contact a doctor and mention they may have been exposed to mercury or mercury vapors, the Miami-Dade Health Department said. They can also contact the Miami-Dade County Health Department at 305-324-2400.

Click here for more information on mercury poisoning.

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