Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lead contamination hurts the poor

In the small community of Sitio del Niño, the inhabitants are living in a contaminated environment. The source of this contamination stems from the battery production of the company, Baterías de El Salvador (Record). Lead from the battery production has polluted the water, the air, and the surrounding environment of the community. Thus, the health security in the community is highly threatened.

Water is a vital necessity for daily life, and is crucial for health and sanitation. Tests of the water carried out by the department of environment indicate that the level of lead in the water was three times above the permitted level by international standards. Unfortunately, the lead from the fabric has spread out through the whole ecosystem. This means that soil, vegetation, and houses are infected by lead. Researchers from the University of El Salvador measured that soils and houses located in a 700 perimeter from the fabric contained levels of lead from ten to fiftheen times higher than the permitted level.

The health impact of this contamiation is serious. The department of health informs that 120 children have proven high levels of lead in their blood. The total number of affected people is not verified, but estimates tell that the majority of the 1500 people in the community are affected. The health consequences varies between people, but children seems to be most vulnerable to the contamination. Children suffers from headache, pain in the stomach, nausea, among others. More long-term consequences are belated learning abilities, anemia, and even death.

This is specifically hard for the poor due to several factors. They cannot afford remedies preventing them from the contamination, like water in bottles. It is not feasible for everyone to purchase health services. The government does not prioritize the community although the situation for the people is grave and they have proven results carried out by the departments.

Water can only be obtained from wells, due to the lack of potable water in the area. Boiling this water does not remove particles from metals like lead. Consequently, the people are forced to use this water in their daily life because water bottles are normally too expensive for them. This means that they will have contaminated water through their food, their washing, etc.

Even if an increasing number of people has received treatment for their injuries caused by contamination, this is not an opportunity easily accesible for everyone. Not everyone can afford it.

Despite the fact that the fabric was shut down a year ago, the inhabitants are still living in their environmentally degraded community. The government has not launched any measures to move the people out of the area. There are actually large areas of unused land in the country, but nothing happens. In addition to the lead contamination, there are also a large portion of toxic waste dumped by the fabric. None of these toxics have been removed by the authorities.

The battery company's leadership consisted of several members from the influential Lacayo family, which is currently escaping persecution from Interpol. The former finance minister Miguel Lacayo served as the director of the company, but the arm of the judiciary has in a strange manner managed to miss him. The case is now moving slowly forward in the judicial system. The judge has now prolonged the investigation of the case with six months.

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