MAC/20: Mines and Communities

PERU

Published by MAC on 2007-05-15

PERU

Government officials and Social Leaders Strive to Approve Contingency Plan to Address Health Crisis in La Oroya

Press release by Movimiento por la Salud de La Oroya/MOSAO y Mesa Técnica

www.todosobrelaoroya.org

8 May 2007. La Oroya, Peru. In a new socio-political climate, leaders of La Oroya have agreed on the need to approve a contingency plan to address the air pollution.

Dr. Hugo Villa, public health specialist and neurologist of ESSALUD Hospital of La Oroya, stated that the contingency plan would alert the population during periods of higher toxic emissions from the Metallurgical Complex. According to the national regulations for air quality, "The goal of the air quality alert system is to implement measures to prevent health risks and avoid the population’s exposure to toxic emissions,” said Villa.

Villa added, “In the Casaracra Program, we see children of who maitain lead-blood levels between 45 to 50 mg/dL, while the international maximum acceptable level is 10 mg/dL.” Of 60 children tested in the study, the majority showed levels exceeding 45 mg/dL. Five children demonstrated levels that exceeded 70 mg/dL, from the district of La Oroya Antigua, the area closest to the Metallurgical Complex.

Children receive eight hours of medical treatment and nutritional meals as a part of the program of the Ministry of Health in agreement with DRP. The program is located in garden of Casaracra, 9km from the children’s homes in La Oroya.

In October 2006, the Blacksmith Institute of New York named La Oroya one of the ten most contaminated places on earth. A study in La Oroya and Concepción regarding contamination conducted by Saint Louis University indicated that 97% of the population between birth to 6 years of age has elevated levels of lead in their bloodstream.

In this context, Rosa Amaro, coordinator of the Health Movement of La Oroya, and Aníbal Carhuapoma, secretary general of the DRP workers’ union, agree that the Contigency Plan should be approved soon. “With [a Contigency Plan] the population would be better informed to protect their heatlh,” said Amaro.

Mayor César Rodríguez stated that the social climate was more favorable to address the environmental emergency. “There is not as much fear of the company, or siding with the company as there was before with population. It is evident that people have made the decision to work on the enviromental concerns.”

On the other hand in 2006, the former Mayor of Yauli- La Oroya and the Multisectoral Comitee for Socio-Economic and Historical Vigilence questioned the implementation of the a Contingency Plan. DRP stated that the Contingency Plan would not respect the norms of PAMA and opposed any interuptions of company operations.

Carlos Rojas, executive secretary of the Central Andean Region of CONAM (National Council for the Environment), noted that the Contingency Plan would be approved this month if their were no delaying factors. The Plan is being analyzed and discussed by the directors council of CONAM.

Fausto Roncal, of the Ministry Health, gave another reason to move the approval of the plan forward. Since October there has been an alert system. A Ministry of Health official receives real-time information from 5 stations in the city. “However, without a Contigency Plan, we cannot announce the Alerts,” said Roncal.

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