MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2006-02-05


by Lead Poisoning Confirmed in San Antonio Oeste, Chubut, Argentina

5th February 2006

Results of lead poisoning studies were presented yesterday in San Antonio Oeste. They had been made of contamination produced twenty years ago by a company which carried out lead mining and foundry operations. The studies, carried out among a group of children in the city the month of November 2005, showed that among the almost 200 children tested, 44 showed levels of lead in their blood. For this,following recommendations of the World Health Organization, the community will carry out education efforts to reduce the ingestion and assimilation of lead among families, and the State will set out the steps towards remediation of the contaminated lands which house the waste dump of the former mining company Geotécnica.

Following the confirmation of lead poisoning of the 44 children of San Antonio, the community on its part will carry out steps to prevent the ingestion and incorporation of the metals which come from the waste dump, located only three kilometers from the city, abandoned twenty years ago by the company Geotécnica, which operated a heavy metals foundary, among them, lead. This is a situation which carries ominous implications for Chubut, where recently, plans have been announced to carry out exploitation of Navidad, one of the largest mines of lead and silver in the world.

Twenty percent of the population could be poisoned

The report, presented yesterday by national and local public health authorities, revealed that 80% of the children, some 156, showed levels of less than 10 micrograms per 100ml; while 18% - some 36 children - had between 10 and 14 mg; and three children showed levels between 15 and 19 mg.

The Environmental Legacy

The Multisectorial Commission, organized in July 2005 after studies which found lead poisoning in mussels from the Bay of San Antonio, highlighted the legacy of contamination left by the company Geotécnica. This is a debt that firms have left in many parts of the world, and for which many safeguardings must be demanded in our province, keeping in mind the hundreds of mining projecs which are being promoted without regards to their consequences.

As expressed Maite Narvarte, biologist of the Institute of Marine Biology in San Antonio Oeste, "we have to focus on this 'environmental legacy' to make sure that nobody else in San Antonio could be exposed to this kind of contamination, because lead causes brain damage, which is not treatable with medication, it is a strong necessity to prevent exposure." To which she added, "Public Health should demand environmental remediation, as this group has."

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