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Newsletter, April 2012

Visit to Bolivia by Dr. Fernando Serrano of the faculty of public health of Saint Louis University of Missouri, USA


Visit to the city of Oruro


Dr. Serrano, in the company of Jhonny Terrazas of CEPA, Félix Layme y Jaime Caichoca of CORIDUP and Chenoa Stock of the UMAVIDA Network, visited different places to get to know the environmental problem related to the impacts of mining operations such as: San José mine and its acidic water which flow without control, the Minero Itos neighborhood, which is a zone directly affected by the environmental tailings of the San José mine, Verenza and the Kori Chaca mine. They also visited the contaminated rivers and canals (including Tagarete and Rosso Canals), where, at the present moment, the waste from the washing of metals from nearby mining activity, flows.

Other activities which Dr. Serrano carried out were interviews in different modes of communication, such as the radio and television. Through these modes, all of the environmental problems connected to public health were discussed, emphasizing that the costs of environmental health for the community were very high and is related to the quality of life of the people. He also expressed his concern for all that he saw in his visit, including the irresponsibility on the part of those who have exploited the minerals. 

That which surprised him the most was the contamination that exists in Huanuni. The town is situated on the banks of the river, where the miners throw the tailings, provoking great water contamination for human consumption, for animals, and for agricultural use. This metal washing waste is not the only contaminant of the river, as they also include excrements and gathered trash. Dr. Serrano was very affected by this situation and said “This is not life.”

In the afternoon a meeting with the CEPA office was carried out, which included some representatives of communities affected by the mining contamination who, in a forward manner, shared their experiences and the ongoing fight against the environmental contamination by the mining operations. CEPA’s Director, Brother Gilberto Pauwels, gave all of the studies which were carried out in Oruro, with respect to these contamination issues, to Dr. Serrano. In this meeting, Dr. Serrano had the opportunity to explain his professional experience with Saint Louis University and, above all, the results of the study in La Oroya, Peru. With this experience, he related it to the situation in Oruro City, clarifying that Environmental Public Health is to work for health and prevention of illness for all of the community.


Interviews with some communities


During the trip to the outskirts of the operations of the Kori Kollo mine, it was realized, in a very visible manner, the environmental impacts for the communities. The lack of agriculture, of vegetation, and the salinized lands were seen along the entire road until arriving at the community of Toma Toma. In this place they were able to speak with some women of the community who confirmed the level of contamination, emphasizing the changes they have seen in their crop during the years of contamination.


Academic Conference “Health, Environment, and Mining” in the city of Oruro


On Thursday, April 19th, Dr. Fernando Serrano, M.A. Ph.D of the Faculty of Public Health of Saint Louis University, Missouri, USA, presented in an academic conference in the Bandera Hall of the Oruro government. Those in attendance as invites were institutions such as the UMAVIDA Network (Bolivian Association Joining Hands for Life), CEPA (Center for Ecology and Andean People), LIDEMA (Defense League for the Environment), PIEB (Program of Strategic Investigation of Bolivia), and organizations of civil society such as FEDJUVE (Departmental Federation of Joined Neighbors of Oruro) and CORIDUP (Coordination in Defense of Desaguadero River and UruUru and Poopó Lakes).

Dr. Serrano explained to those present the study that was carried out as the Oruro University in Peru. This study showed that 97% of children of 6 months to 6 years, 98% of children of 7 years to 12 years, and 100% in La Oroya had elevated levels of lead in their blood.

The average of arsenic in the urine was 50 ug/L for all age groups and four times more in children of less than 6 years. (50 ug/L of arsenic in urine is a level of preoccupation.)

This study covered other municipalities such as those of Concepción, where they found lead in the population, which proved that contamination expands and, in this case, expands through the basin of Mantaro, which are disseminated through wind and water.

He also expressed that heavy metals in human health, above all, are carcinogenic in different organs of human beings.

Dr. Serrano, as a specialized professional, expressed his preoccupation about the environmental situation in the department of Oruro, qualifying it as a dramatic situation for all contaminated areas which exist. It is incomprehensible, he proclaimed, that such sources of contamination still exist in a capital of a department.

To conclude the conference, he expressed energetically, that “health is the state of complete, physical, mental, and social well-being, and is not only the absence of illness.” “Health is only possible when resources exist and are made available for the fulfillment of human necessities, and the environment, where they live and work, is protected from pathogenic contaminants and physical risks that threaten health.”


Academic Conference “Impact of Environmental Contamination in Human Health and the participation of communities in the search for solutions”


Dr. Serrano and Mr. Felix Layme, President of CORIDUP, had an interview in the TV Channels 9 and 4 in the morning.

Afterward, an academic conference was held, where a majority of the participants were technicians/experts from different institutions, representing the Central Government, the Provincial Government, the Municipality and other institutions.

For the first part of the conference, CORIDUP explained the situation of the mining contamination that lives in the city of Oruro, demonstrating, by means of photographs, the mining impacts in the life of animals and land. They expressed that they do not have studies about the impacts on human health; however, they emphasized that, at the present moment, they are waiting, as an organization, for the results of the Environmental Audit of the Kori Kollo mining operations, begun in 2009.

For the second part, Dr. Serrano presented the results of the study carried out in La Oroya, Peru. The information displayed was scientifically elaborated. This information provoked the audience to suggest to work on a similar study in the city of Oruro, in order that many institutions and universities can collaborate in this work.

The questions were very technical and there were requests for more information, in order to be able to schedule with the population and executive authorities to solve the environmental impacts, above all, in the city of Oruro.

The conference ended, stating that these environmental impacts, which are caused by companies, effecting the human health of a total community, must be evaluated, because health is integral and is physical, mental, and social well-being, not only the absence of illness.


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