Government Reports Positive Trends in La Oroya Blood Leads

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Doe Run Peru credits collaboration, says more needs to be done.

Peruvian health officials have announced indications of improvements in the blood lead levels of young children in La Oroya as a result of a collaborative agreement between the government and Doe Run Peru.

"There are encouraging indications that the steps that have been taken since the agreement began are starting to yield results," Jorge Albinagorta, a senior official with the Peruvian Ministry of Health, told a news conference in La Oroya Monday.

The study, conducted last November and December on nearly 800 children aged 6 and under from the La Oroya Antigua neighborhood, found that 91 percent of the children could continue in an ongoing holistic program of health education, improved nutrition, and environmental measures such as street cleaning.

"The progress to date is promising, but there is much more work ahead. Our job will be done only when these issues have been addressed for all the children of La Oroya," said Bruce Neil, president of Doe Run Peru.

In keeping with international protocols, the remaining 9 percent of children found to be at high risk for complications related to lead exposure will receive more aggressive measures, Albinagorta said. Several of the children will be sent to Lima for further medical and other developmental evaluations, while the rest will attend schools and daycares in the surrounding communities, away from the sources of lead exposure.

Albinagorta also noted that previous environmental operating agreements between the government and the companies operating the metallurgical complex did not prioritize health issues. He welcomed the shift in emphasis of a new agreement being sought by Doe Run Peru to better address health issues.

"The old PAMAs didn’t take health issues into consideration so much; they were focused more on environmental and investment issues that the companies have made an effort to address," he said.

"We expect a great deal from the contributions that the company continues to give and we hope to have the collaboration of our friends in civil society," Albinagorta added.

Under a 2003 agreement with the Ministry of Health, Doe Run Peru supports state health officials with efforts including funding and helping carry out health awareness campaigns with community groups and social workers to educate families on good hygiene and nutrition techniques to combat lead exposure. In addition, the company supports a local soup kitchen that provides a daily meal to La Oroya’s neediest children.

Since purchasing the 80-year-old metallurgical complex from the Peruvian government in 1997, Doe Run Peru has spent more than $140 million on facilities, health and environmental improvements. It has pledged to spend another $150 million during the next six years.

"Our job is about more than just providing employment and contributing to the local economy," Doe Run President Neil said. "We are serious about improving local health and the environment and we will continue to work on this every day along with local health officials and the community."

The Doe Run Company, along with its subsidiaries, is a privately held natural resource company focused on environmentally sound mineral and metals production, recycling and metals fabrication. Based in St. Louis, the company and its subsidiaries serve as North America’s largest integrated lead producer and third-largest total lead producer worldwide, employing more than 4,000 people. The company and its employees are committed to keeping its operations and communities clean and safe while producing essential raw materials – lead, zinc, copper, gold and silver – that are needed for everyday life. Doe Run and its subsidiaries have U.S. operations in Missouri, Washington and Arizona, and South American operations in Peru.

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Christi Dixon

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