MAC: Mines and Communities

Parents Clamor for Help for their Daughter with Extreme Lead Poisoning

Published by MAC on 2009-08-10
Source: Cynthias Garreta P, La Republica (Peru)

MAC special edition on lead

Little Thais hits her mother’s back and emits constant cries in an act of desperation. Her distressed mother, Madelayne Carhuaricra (33), tries to console her, and along with her husband Luis Palma (40) they say desperately, “We don’t know where to look for help anymore!”

They are inhabitants of the Yanacancha district, located in the Cerro de Pasco region [of Peru] and since April 14 they have been in Lima trying to improve the health of their daughter, who, at just four years of age, presents constant convulsions, fever, pains, diarrhea and upset stomach because of the great quantities of lead that have invaded her bloodstream. The reason?  It has its roots in that, since 2005, the land around the home where this humble family lives began to emit toxic gases, principally lead, from cracks produced by the continuous explosions realized there by the company Minera Volcan.

“Since 2006, according to a study the regional government and the Pasco Regional Health Administration performed on us, I know that my entire family is poisoned.  Of my seven children, four have extreme lead poisoning, but the most affected is my little girl Thais who has even stopped talking,” says Luis dejected.

He also presents symptoms such as headaches and dizziness produced by the lead poisoning he suffers. In response, the mining company has only helped with the diagnosis and in moving them to a new home located in the center of the town of Paracsha, but which belongs to the polluted district as well.  “The representatives of Minera Volcan have loaned us rooms in their camp, but what my family really needs is to be evacuated from this city because if we stay here we will continue to be poisoned,” says Luis desperately.

According to a study realized by the regional government and the Pasco Regional Health Administration, 67.3% of area children under 9 years of age have lead poisoning with an average blood lead concentration of 14.9 µg/dl.

Little Thais has 120 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.  This is a truly alarming figure, as evidenced by the girl’s grave condition.  Three of the other six siblings also have high levels of lead poisoning: 66 µg/dl, 96 µg/dl, and 100 µg/dl.  The allowed blood lead concentration for adults is 14 µg/dl.  There is another figure to be indignant about: Thaïs’s parents have blood lead concentrations of 29 µg/dl (mother) and 21 µg/dl (father).

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