Four populations in the Amazon area were selected for a comparative study of mercury-exposed and non-exposed populations: São Luiz do Tapajós, Barreiras, Panacauera, and Pindobal Grande. The highest mercury levels in human hair samples were found in São Luiz do Tapajós and Barreiras, greatly exceeding the limits established by the World Health Organization. Panacauera showed an intermediate level below 9 µg/g. This was the first comparative and simultaneous evaluation of mercury exposure in the Amazon area. Also, thanks to this type of monitoring, we were able to eliminate the uncertainties about the reference dose. On the basis of these data, we can conclude that the mercury levels detected in exposed populations of the Tapajós River basin may be dangerous not only because they are above the World Health Organization limits, but also because the simultaneous mercury detection in non-exposed populations with similar characteristics provided a valid control and revealed lower mercury levels. Our results support the importance of continuous monitoring in both exposed and non-exposed populations.