MAC: Mines and Communities

Peru's Supreme Court Requires Government To Declare Health Emergency In La Oroya

Published by MAC on 2006-06-29
Source: Prensa Oroya


Peru's Supreme Court requires Government to declare Health Emergency in La Oroya

Prensa Oroya, Lima

29th June 2006

Peru's Supreme Court yesterday gave the Ministry of Health 30 days to declare a health emergency in La Oroya and to put in place an emergency health plan for the city, widely considered one of the the most contaminated cities in the Western Hemisphere.

The city is the home of a multi-metal smelter, owned and operated by the Doe Run Company of St. Louis, MO.

The emergency health plan must use the National Air Quality Standards which are more strict than the system used when Doe Run purchased the metallurgical complex in 1997. The ruling requires the Health Ministry to give special attention to children and pregnant women.

While the ruling named the Health Ministry as the agency primarily responsible for protecting the health of La Oroya's population, it also called on the Doe Run Company to reduce toxic contamination and protect the health of La Oroya's people.

The Supreme Court ruling allows 30 days for the Health Ministry to declare a health emergency in La Oroya, an action demanded by the Movement for Health in La Oroya (MOSAO) since 2003. A spokesman for the group, Dr. Eliana Ames, expressed satisfaction with the ruling: "This is the first time the Peruvian Government has acted to defend the health of all of La Oroya's children and population." Earlier efforts of Peru's Environmental Health Authority (DIGESA) were limited to a few hundred of La Oroya's estimated 10,000 children, more than 97% of whom suffer from excessive levels of lead, according to last year's study by the St. Louis University's Public Health School.

The ruling represents a major victory for the parents, teachers, health advocates, and community groups of La Oroya's MOSAO which filed the administrative suit almost 4 years ago. An initial victory in the national Appelate Court had been immediately appealed by Peru's Health Ministry, forcing the plaintifs to carry the suit to the Supreme Court.

A related suit to protect health in La Oroya is still pending before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

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