photo of person from Peru Cerro de Pasco
employment and income

community activities
culture and customs
justice and crime
social change
social relationships
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introducing the area


 quotes about health
 key testimonies featuring health

street in PeruMany narrators have personal experience of the effects of pollution on people's health (and on that of their animals). Lead and arsenic, for example, have seeped into the environment and there are reports of stomach, skin and respiratory problems, as well as dental decay and hair loss. Some traditional remedies are still used (see 11, 13, 15 and 31), and coca is chewed to stave off hunger and tiredness.

Working in the mines and the smelter carry their own health risks too, including silicosis, lead poisoning and skin cancer. Some people working in the foundry are known as the emplomados (people of lead). Health and safety precautions in the industry were often minimal and accidents not uncommon. There are some powerful accounts of the conditions in the mines, and the high levels of anxiety with which mining families learned to live. For some, the health risks were too great, and they left; others are determined their children will not follow them into the mines.

quotes about health

".most of them didn't have breathing apparatus, or helmets, or goggles.. Most workers had enormous scabs on their faces.. Many of them developed [skin cancer]. The people that started work in the foundry in the early years were the ones which paid this price."
Ana, F/39, leader of women's mining assoc., Peru 24

"Last year. the medical post identified an unacceptably high rate of tuberculosis and silicosis among the population of Quiulacocha.. The lake was full of tailings (waste) and Centromin's solution was to transfer the waste into Ocroyoc.which is situated on the edge of our now when the wind is blowing in the evenings - dammit - it smells foul, awful. The stuff which comes out of the water treatment plant .is another problem.. Just lately, the health promoter has been doing an analysis of hair and teeth because our children have a lot of cavities as a result of the contaminated water we drink."
Gregoria, F/44, herder, Peru 6

"I began as a cleaner in the courtyards [of the Cerro de Pasco foundry], there were eight of us working in the yard and cleaning the chimney. So when we went into the chimney with all that dust, fine arsenic, that had been forgotten there for years. That was what was in the chimneys. Well there weren't any filters then. The smoke fell over La Oroya like a snow fall. spots appeared on my face the next day and they didn't get better in hospital. My face had swollen up so that's why I left, it was messing me up, making me ill. So that's why I left. They didn't want to let me go but I did anyway. I got better when I was back on the farm."
Ignacio, M/71, farmer/miner, Peru 20

".when we feel bad we go to Cerro de Pasco to the doctor, to hear what he has to say though we know doctor' can't do everything. He always tells us not to eat fat and milk and we have to take medicine. The truth is we don't last long.we only take the medicine for four or five days at the most and then we stop. That's because there's no shortage of people who say sort yourself out- we have a lot of natural remedies here."
Ignacio, M/71, electrician, Peru 31

"In those days there [was] all kinds of bird and animal life. But not now, there's none of this now, señor, now that the river is so polluted. The pollution is destroying our houses, our children, everything, sometimes we've drunk polluted water and this has caused tooth decay in all the children and old people, señor."
Luis, M/64, judge/comunero, Peru 3

"Lots of people had skin cancer, many of them developed it. The people that started work in the foundry in the early years were the ones who paid this price. The foundry in La Oroya has killed a fair amount of people."
Ana, F/39, leader of women's mining assoc., Peru 24

key testimonies featuring health

  No.   Name   Sex/Age   Occupation   Location  
Summary Transcript   11   Dominica   female/70   campesina   Quiulacocha  
Summary Transcript   12   Victor   male/old   retired miner   Huaracayo, Yauli region  
Summary Transcript   13   Adela   female/59   campesina   La Oroya  
Summary Transcript   15   Juan   male/23   student   Tinyahuarco, Near Cerro de Pasco  
Summary Transcript   17   Wilmer   male/20   student   Lima  
Summary Transcript   18   Felix   male/38   unemployed miner   Cerro de Pasco  
Summary Transcript   19   Florentino   male/35   Agrarian League leader   Paccha  
Summary Transcript   2   Luzmila   female/38   municipal worker   Quiulacocha  
Summary Transcript   20   Ignacio   male/71   farmer/miner   Paccha  
Summary Transcript   21   Eliseo and Isabel   male/female/40s   ex-union activists   La Oroya  
Summary Transcript   22   Magno   male/55   community leader/builder   Saco (La Oroya)  
Summary Transcript   24   Ana   female/39   leader of women’s mining assoc.   La Oroya  
Summary Transcript   27   Carmen   female/18   student   La Oroya  
Summary Transcript   28   Guillermina   female/32   self-employed knitter   La Oroya  
Summary Transcript   3   Luis   male/64   judge/comunero   Quiulacocha  
Summary Transcript   31   Ignacio   male/71   electrician   Huaranccacca  
Summary Transcript   32   Alejandro   male/40s   teacher   La Oroya  
Summary Transcript   4   Héctor   male/33   teacher   Quiulacocha  
Summary Transcript   6   Gregoria   female/44   herder   San Antonio/Yauli  
Summary Transcript   7   Abel   male/22   footballer/miner   Quiulacocha  
Summary Transcript   9   Urbano   male/80   ex-community leader   San Antonio de Yauli