Monday, June 18, 2007

American Company Inflicts Brain Damage on Peruvian Children
High in the Peruvian Andes, a smokestack rises from the smelter complex in La Oroya, listed by an environment group as among the 10 most polluted places in the world, putting it in the company of Chernobyl, Ukraine. Doe Run Peru, an affiliate of a St. Louis-based company, bought the facility in 1997 and was given 10 years to clean up emissions. Residents say they still face a daily bombardment of fine dust that coats furniture and clothing and penetrates closed doors and windows.
(Liliana Nieto del Rio, xx)
Feb 21, 2007

LATimes: Lead exposure in Peru raises concern
In La Oroya, a U.S.-owned smelter provides livelihoods. But its emissions are said to be stunting children's development.

LATimes Photo Gallery: Poison Town

This LATimes article, on an important topic, is unfortunately wishy-washy corporate journalism. This statement made me gasp:

However, epidemiological and statistical studies definitively linking the emissions to illness are lacking.

This is a bald-faced lie. There is no need for further studies of the toxicity of lead. Unless they are making some racist argument that the brains of Peruvian children react differently to lead than the brains of American children, that is. In this country scientists recognize that there is no safe level of exposure to lead for a child. The Centers for Disease Control states flatly: [T]there is no safe level of lead in blood. The National Safety Council's fact sheet on lead poisoning states: "[] [T]here is in fact no level of lead exposure that can be considered safe."

And epidemiological studies? Do the authors mean that we should continue to allow these children to be brain damaged, so a longitudinal study can be made of them? That's barbaric.

Mother Jones covered the story this winter
, tying the fate of the Peruvian town to the Missouri town of Herculaneum, where state environmental regulators stepped in because of high lead levels from the American Doe Run smelter. The company settled with Missouri regulators by doing a multi-million dollar cleanup and spending $10 million to buy out 160 homeowners within 3/8 of a mile of the smelter.
Since 1994, the St. Louis-based Doe Run has been part of the Renco Group, the private holding company of New York businessman Ira Rennert. Rennert has earned a dubious reputation over his nearly 20 years in the mining business. His magnesium production company in Utah filed for bankruptcy in 2001, shortly after federal officials accused it of illegally disposing of hazardous waste. Another Rennert company, a steel producer in Ohio, paid millions of dollars in environmental penalties even as Rennert paid himself more than $200 million in dividends.

"He has gotten rich off junk bonds issued by metals companies he acquired, paid fines to clean up when he’s had to, stopped interest payments on bonds and bought back assets at pennies on the dollar," a 2002 Forbes magazine story said of Rennert, who owns a 100,000-square-foot home in the Hamptons. "He has done it all within the law--and within plain view of investors."

Doe Run and Doe Run Peru are owned by the Renco Group, which is run by the notorious corporate raider Ira Rennert. He is a classic corporate welfare cheat who runs his businesses in a way that maximizes corporate profits, and leaves the taxpayers to clean up his messes, whether they be from lead, chlorine, coal, or other toxins.

We'll pay for his misdeeds, but he won't, at least not in this life. This is the home of Ira Rennert, the man who profits by causing brain damage in children:

wikipedia: His 100,000 square foot (9,000 m²) home, dubbed Fair Field (named after the adjoining body of water, Fairfield Pond), faces the Atlantic Ocean and is perched on 63 acres. The buildings have an Italianate facade, 29 bedrooms, and 39 bathrooms. A dozen chimneys tower from the Mediterranean-style tile roof. The formal dining room stretches 91 feet in length. That’s three feet shorter than a basketball court—another amenity Fair Field has, along with a bowling alley, a pair each of tennis and squash courts, and a $150,000 hot tub, according to building plans and other documents filed with Southampton town hall. Its property taxes in 2004 were $392,610.24.

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