La Oroya: House of Lead: A story of Greed

December 16th, 2008

I had wanted to write about the sad state of the small Andean town of La Oroya for more than two years. It has been that long since I had passed through the town, seen its bleak condition and wondered why the air, at this extreme altitude was so thick and heavy, and strange-tasting.

On returning to Lima I found out. It was because of the US company Doe Run and their immoral lead-smelting operation. As I followed the news, saw how Doe Run avoided meeting their obligations to clean up its act and stop poisoning the townspeople, saw them claim great improvements, saw environmental groups run tests to prove the situation is worsening, and saw more promises go unfilled time and time again – I couldn’t find the right moment to write about the case, or the words to express just how bad the situation is.

International attention comes and goes, but now La Oroya is in the spotlight once more as CNN begins its coverage of the town where 99% of the population is heavily lead-poisoned by up to three times the highest WHO limit, have strange rashes, stomach pains, are intellectually stunted, covered in layers of toxic dust of which 1,000 tonnes is omited per day, and where children are dying regularly. Living in this town means you are 2000 times more likely to die of cancer… that’s if you are even born. Should you not be miscarried, you are born pre-lead-poisoned and already risk not growing up at all.

Ira Rennert, billionaire owner of Doe Run doesn’t care though. Not one bit. Exploiting the vulnerable of third world nations is great business.

I present to you the mini-documentary;

House of Lead: A Story of Greed

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