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Protecting the health of La Oroya's residents from toxic pollution

For just under a century, a metal smelter has spewed toxic clouds full of heavy metals over the densely populated city of La Oroya, in the Peruvian Andes. Nearly all the city’s residents have lead and other heavy metals in their blood, and many residents suffer chronic respiratory illness.

If internationally accepted health standards were enforced, the people of La Oroya would receive immediate, intensive medical attention. Yet most do not, and the few who do receive inadequate care. Because lead inhibits brain development, the children of La Oroya are in the most vulnerable situation and will likely be affected for life.

AIDA became involved with La Oroya in 1998, and we have since used varied strategies to protect public health, the environment and the rights of its residents. AIDA’s 2002 publication, La Oroya Cannot Wait, helped kick-start the far-reaching international campaign to save La Oroya. Through media outreach and by providing technical and legal information, we have educated government agencies and the affected community about the contamination and health problems in the city.

Despite calls for action from national courts and international authorities, the responsible parties—including the Peruvian government, Doe Run Peru and its parent corporation, the U.S.-based Renco Group—have been unwilling to respond with appropriate vigor or urgency.

Although certain environmental improvements have been made and a health center provides some assistance to the affected people we represent, much more remains to be done.

What AIDA is doing: 

  • AIDA is using international law in our effort to compel the government to: adequately control the operations of the smelter in order to limit public exposure to airborne contaminants; assume responsibility for the human rights violations caused to the people of La Oroya; and educate residents about health risks.
  • Since 2005, AIDA has represented residents of La Oroya before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In 2007, in response to our request, the Commission granted precautionary measures to prevent harm to the health, integrity and lives of the people of La Oroya. In 2016, the Commission extended the scope of the precautionary measures to 14 more people of La Oroya.
  • AIDA and our partners continually update the Commission with evidence that the Peruvian government has failed to comply with the precautionary measures. The case remains pending a decision on the merits. 

The Latest

Human Rights, Toxic Pollution | 25 April 2017

Lowering Peru’s air quality standards is regressive and harmful to public health

The government of Peru has proposed increasing the legal amount of sulfur dioxide in the air by more than 12 times and doubling the allowed level of particulate matter, substances known to cause...read more

Human Rights, Toxic Pollution | 9 December 2016

La Oroya: Over a decade’s wait for justice

From the time Isabel* was born, she has breathed toxic air. She’s had heavy metals in her blood for all 13 years of her young life. Her hometown, La Oroya, a small city in the Peruvian Andes, was...read more

Human Rights, Toxic Pollution | 20 October 2016

Peru begins testing La Oroya residents affected by toxic pollution

In May 2016, the IACHR required the Peruvian State to protect the life and integrity of 14 additional people affected by the heavy pollution of La Oroya’s metal smelter. Just last week, medical...read more