Back to Annual Meeting
Back to Annual Meeting
APHA Scientific Session and Event Listing

Environmental contamination in a mining town in Peru: Implications for the struggle for community health and policy change in a globalized world

Fernando Serrano, MA, David Sterling, PhD, CIH, and Angela Hobson, MPH. School of Public Health, Saint Louis University, 3545 Lafayette Ave., Room 360, St. Louis, MO 63104, (314) 977-8137, serranof@slu.edu

What is the exposure to heavy metals affecting residents of La Oroya, Peru? How is the community responding? And what are the implications for public health and policy change in the international arena? There is growing concern about the environmental contamination and health effects caused by extractive industries such as mining in developing countries. This is the case of La Oroya, a mining town in Peru's central Andes, where the operations of a U.S.-based corporation is depositing lead, cadmium and arsenic in the surrounding environment with serious implications for the health of community residents.

Presenters will discuss the results of a study to address the following questions: (1) What are the levels of lead, arsenic, and cadmium in blood and urine of home residents? (2) How do these levels differ from a similar but non-smelting/non-mining industry area? (3) How can these findings inform policy decision for protecting public health?

Researchers from United States and Peru conducted random sampling of over 250 residents and their homes in La Oroya and a control site over a five-day period in August 2005. Data gathering involved the completion of a questionnaire, basic medical evaluation, and blood and urine sampling from up to four age groups within a residence. Also, environmental samples were collected of drinking water, soil, and hand wipes of various surfaces and children's hands.

Research, cultural and political challenges made this a unique collaborative effort with grassroots and faith-based organizations seeking to promote prevention and environmental policy change in Peru.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Environmental Health Hazards, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No

Water and the Environment: Affecting Health Across Borders

The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA