The city of La Oroya is located in Peru in the department of Junin, 180 km from Lima, between the jungle and the central Peruvian coast. It has a population of 35,000, most of whom live near a metals refinery. The metallurgical complex owned by Doe Run Peru has been in this area for over 85 years, and since 1997 it is owned by an American multinational which refines 22 types of metals like gold, silver, copper, lead, tellurium, cadmium, iodine, and produces sulphuric acid and arsenic. All this leads to an annual turnover of over 600 million dollars.
These profit, however, inevitably lead to a intolerable situation: every day, the smokestack of the multimetal smelter and refinery complex spews out 800 tons of sulphur dioxide and a dangerous fine dust consisting of various heavy metals.
In 2006, the Blacksmith Institute, a New York-based environmental organization, compiled a list of the top 10 most polluting industries on the planet, and added La Oroya to the top four along with Norilsk and Chernobyl.
Children under seven in La Oroya have blood-lead levels about three times higher than the internationally accepted standard. Forty-four percent of children under five have mental or motor deficiencies, and nearly 10 percent of children under seven have enough lead in their blood to warrant medical treatment.