October 3rd, 2008
03:57 PM ET

Protecting children from heavy metals in Peru


Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows how people in La Oroya, Peru, try to reduce exposure to arsenic, lead and other heavy metals thrown off by an American-owned smelter. Health and environmental groups have filed a petition urging the Peruvian government take urgent action to protect people from illnesses and death.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Tom Kruzen

    Doe Run was supposed to upgrade the smelter and clean up eleven years ago. They are famous for delaying clean-ups, upgrading and only do those things when they are pressured to do so. This has been their modus operandi in the US and and Peru. They are still spilling lead concentrate all over Missouri and their Herculaneum smelter still belches out sulfur dioxide and heavy metals. Only when citizens expose the problems does the government force Doe Run to do the right thing. Think of all the money Doe Run would save and the lives that could be saved if they had done things right in the first place!

    October 4, 2008 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Maria Supple

    I was born in Lima, when I traveled to Arequipa, which is a high altitude city we went to a Club to dance the first night, and that night I feel dying, with the sickness. They toog me to the emergency room thet night. Then
    I was told by experienced people there, that when you travel to a high altitude city, the first night you have to rest and take it easy on the first day so the next day when you get up up you will adjust perfectly to the new atmosphere there. I followed this advise on my following trip when I visited Cuzco. I felt wonderful, I could hike and have some matte de coca too. It was a great experience to get closer to the stars.

    October 6, 2008 at 02:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. S Callahan

    This is a good post but would have been much better discussing/ informing the public what the heavy metals can do to a person(s) (ie effect on brain, nervous system, lungs, etc)

    October 8, 2008 at 18:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Ryan

    Dr. Sanjay Gupta,
    I have reported and researched extensively on La Oroya’s health and environmental problems for publications in Peru and I have never met anyone, outside of Doe Run's representative, that actually believes washing the streets and one's hands has a significant impact on the health of the city’s population.

    Besides the well-known statistic that 99 percent of La Oroya's children have lead poisoning, Dr. Victor Hugo, a local physician who has worked in La Oroya for more than 30 years, has recently found that 33 percent of La Oroya’s newborns are poisoned with lead and other heavy metal toxins while still in their mother’s womb. According to Hugo and others, the situation is actually worse now than before Doe Run purchased the smelter.

    Most of the heavy metal poisoning is caused from people inhaling the smelter's toxins, which rains down on the city. Again, washing one's hands is ineffective in this situation. Also, Doe Run uses detergent to wash the street. This actually causes more harm than good – the detergent, along with other toxins, runs into and pollutes the Mantaro River, an important source of water for agriculture in the Mantaro valley (also called Peru's breadbasket). Fruits and vegetables grown in the Mantaro valley sold all over Lima (pop. 8 million) and exported abroad to markets in the U.S.

    So, why wash the streets and one's hands when largely ineffective? Makes for good television on CNN, and helps Doe Run look like they are actually doing something without actually doing anything.

    In my opinion, and that of many others, three actual solutions for La Oroya are:

    1) Chelation therapy for those with lead poisoning. This must be done with solution number 2 or 3 below or it will not be ineffective in the long run.

    2) Physically moving La Oroya. This option is very costly, and neither Peru's government nor Doe Run are willing to pay. As I’m sure you know, many of the city’s residents are simply too poor to pay to leave.

    3) Doe Run Peru cleans up its act and modernizes the smelter to prevent further heavy metal poisoning of La Oroya residents. This is probably the best option, but unfortunately Doe Run has been dragging it’s feet for too long.

    I think you overlooked those points and it needs to be clear that hand washing and street cleaning is largely ineffective in a situation like La Oroya where people are constantly inhaling the toxins.

    All that said, I commend you for traveling to La Oroya and bringing this important issue to CNN’s audience.


    December 11, 2008 at 20:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. hyundai key fob replacement

    Wohh just what I was searching for, appreciate it for posting. I love your website! https://local-auto-locksmith.co.uk/hyundai/

    January 4, 2021 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. geodon no rx

    My husband and i ended up being comfortable Albert could carry out his basic research by way of the ideas he acquired from your blog. It's not at all simplistic just to always be freely giving guidance many others could have been making money from. And now we already know we've got the blog owner to appreciate because of that. All of the explanations you've made, the easy blog menu, the friendships you aid to create – it's all astonishing, and it's aiding our son and our family believe that that article is awesome, and that's exceedingly essential. Many thanks for all! https://geodonziprasidone.com/

    January 8, 2021 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. hyperthyroid medication list

    Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you continue this in future. Lots of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers! https://hypothyroidismmed.com/ Hypothyroidism medications https://hypothyroidismmed.com/

    February 24, 2021 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. ClarkTauts

    bmt7v 097hh wzk0

    February 28, 2021 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. ClarkTauts

    gp27f fmsgn 9ks3

    March 1, 2021 at 22:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. pulsoksymetr napalcowy

    Bardzo interesujące informacje! Idealnie to, czego szukałem pulsoksymetr napalcowy pulsoksymetr napalcowy. https://pulsoksymetrn.pl/

    March 15, 2021 at 23:25 | Report abuse | Reply

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.