La Oroya is small city in central Peru, some 176 km east-north-east of the national capital, Lima. What separates this small city from all other cities in the world is extreme pollution. In fact this town earned a place on the Blacksmith Institute's 2007 report as one of "The World's Worst Polluted Places". And there are more than 30,000 people living in this small town.
The cause of this tremendous pollution is multi-metal smelter owned by U.S. Doe Run corporation. This company bought smelter back in 1997 from the state under the condition to significantly reduce toxic emissions. Though the company said how it has already spent $300m to sort this tremendous environmental mess, the pollution levels in this city are still extreme, and population is still breathing one of the most polluted air on our planet. The company was given several time extension to reduce toxic emissions but this hasn't helped a lot because global financial crisis hit this company very hard, bringing it on the verge of collapse.
It's obvious that Doe Run has failed big time to fulfill what was needed to protect the environment, and local people are becoming tired of false promises. However this big smelter is providing jobs for local people and people do not want to see it closed. Some believe this plant should be nationalized while some believe it would be best to search for another foreign investment. Of course both of these possible solutions do not guarantee protection from future toxic emissions.
And how bad are toxic emissions in this town? Many people in this town are dying from lead poisoning. Research carried out in 2005 showed that many children under six years of age had toxic levels bigger than 40 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. According to World Health Organization the maximum safe limit is set to 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. Current data for many children shows even bigger blood lead readings up to 60 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. Many children were also diagnosed with high levels of some other toxic metals, such as cadmium, arsenic and mercury.
All you have to do is enter this town to experience how big pollution levels really are. The air that this people breath irritates throat making breathing very difficult, and what is even worse these people have to breath it every day. Some people say how at some days gases are so heavy that they are forced to stay in their houses because it is impossible to breath outside.
The worst thing in this whole story was that nobody really cared about people that live in this town when company had big profits, and provided lots of jibs to local people. When I say nobody I mean even local population because many of them are ready to sacrifice their health, putting their jobs before their health and health of their families. But now once jobs are at risk suddenly there's a big fuss about it.
It also looks like nobody really doesn't know what to do now. Government hasn't forced necessary laws and company hasn't done enough not only to reduce toxic emissions but it also hasn't spent enough money to take care of the workers and the people that live in this city. It is really unclear what will happen next. It would be really nice if health and environmental conditions for more than 30,000 people would finally improve.
This video will give you more insight into La Oroya pollution problem.