U.S.-owned plant contaminating Peruvian communities with heavy metals

There’s heavy metal in Peru, but not the mullet-and-fake-satanism kind. Children in a Peruvian Andes mining town have high levels of toxic heavy metals in their bodies — and the likely source is an 83-year-old smelter owned by the St. Louis-based Doe Run Company. An independent study found that 97 percent of La Oroya’s children under six have harmful blood levels of lead, and about 18 percent have high body burdens of arsenic. Researchers also discovered elevated heavy-metal levels in Concepcion, a town about 70 miles downriver and downwind of La Oroya, suggesting the contamination may be regional. Doe Run execs didn’t comment on the report, but a spokesflack says that by 2006, the company will have put over $140 million toward improving the smelter.