Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Mining brings Chile city riches -- and fear of cancer
Antofagasta, Chile (AFP) May 15, 2017

Black dust stains the walls of the building where Jaqueline Jimenez and her children once lived in northern Chile.

In an industrial city like Antofagasta, there is perhaps nothing so unusual in that -- but Jimenez says she fears that this dust carries a poisonous burden, and that her children now bear it in their bodies.

It is blown on the wind from the nearby port, where copper from the region's abundant mines is loaded and shipped across the world.

Long known as a hub of production in the world's biggest miner of the red metal, Antofagasta has earned a darker distinction as Chile's cancer capital.

Authorities have called for calm, insisting that heavy metals cannot be breathed in and are only poisonous if ingested. But Jimenez is not convinced.

"It is not normal that everyone should be dying of cancer here," she says. "It is a death sentence for my family."

- Arsenic -

Run your finger along the window sill in Jimenez's old home and it will come away black with dust that is hard to wash off.

A study by the Public Health Institute identified 16 different metals in the dust.

The Antofagasta Medical College said it found "arsenic, cadmium, zinc, chrome, copper, lead and manganese which far exceed Chilean norms."

Jimenez lived for five years in an apartment building opposite the port terminal in the city center.

Her children would play out on the roof terrace, unwittingly exposed to the dust.

She says medical tests carried out by specialists abroad have confirmed that the children, now aged 10 and 20, have traces of carcinogenic heavy metals.

- High income, cancer risk -

Mining has helped raise residents' annual income in Antofagasta to nearly double the national average: some $36,000.

But it is also blamed for giving the city the highest rate of lung cancer deaths: more than double the average at just under 35 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Bladder and skin cancer deaths are also high.

"Scientists consider that the Antofagasta area is undergoing a biological experiment in having the population exposed to such levels of contamination," the president of the Antofagasta Medical College, Aliro Bolados, told AFP.

- Decades of pollution -

The scourge of pollution in Antofagasta goes back decades.

In 1998, doctors detected dangerously high levels of lead in children living near a freight railway in the city.

Further back, high levels of arsenic found in the local drinking water between 1958 and 1971 are blamed for a rise in diseases.

People born during that period who are now in their forties or fifties are at high risk of cancer, says Catterina Ferreccio, deputy head of the Center for Advanced Study of Chronic Diseases, Epidemiology and Cancer.

"There is a whole generation that has had all these things," she told AFP.

"Despite having the highest per capita income, they have the lowest life expectancy in Chile."

- 'This Dust Kills You' -

The arsenic threat was brought under control. Now attention is focused on the black dust blowing from the port.

The port's operators, the major Chilean conglomerate Luksic, have signed a commitment to "clean production."

Despite that, a court fined the company $1.3 million in October for pollution and ordered them to clean up the area. The port continues to operate.

"They prefer to sacrifice Antofagasta than to stop Chile making money," said Ricardo Diaz of "This Dust Kills You," a group campaigning for the port to be moved.

- Testing the children -

Authorities have called for calm, insisting that even people living nearby have been exposed to levels of heavy metals below the legal safety limits.

In late 2015, hundreds of children in surrounding schools and nurseries were tested for lead in the blood. More than 99 percent of them were found to be within the safe limits, according to international recommendations.

But the Antofagasta Medical College said further tests were needed.

Jimenez sent samples of her children's hair abroad to have them analyzed. She says the results indicated higher levels of poisonous metals.

Some experts have cast doubt on the validity of the hair tests -- but they say children's exposure to the dust should in any case be limited, due to uncertainty about what effect it could have over the long term.

"There should be obligatory annual tests for children from one to six years old," the city's mayor, Karen Rojo, told AFP, "to determine the damage to the population."

Noise created by humans is pervasive in US protected areas
Fort Collins CO (SPX) May 09, 2017
Protected areas in the United States, representing 14 percent of the land mass, provide places for respite, recreation, and natural resource conservation. However, noise pollution poses novel threats to these protected areas, according to a first-of-its-kind study from scientists at Colorado State University and the U.S. National Park Service. Researchers found that noise pollution was twi ... read more

Related Links
Our Polluted World and Cleaning It Up

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Healthcare bill inspires road rage: Tenn. woman tries to run Congressman off road

New fiber-based sensor could quickly detect structural problems in bridges and dams

Marine Le Pen: far-right firebrand who has shaken up French politics

20 sentenced to prison for deadly 2015 China landslide

A bath for precision printing of 3-D silicone structures

Physical keyboards make virtual reality typing easier

Inverse designing spontaneously self-assembling materials

Scientists create hologram that changes images as it is stretched

Fish should figure in to fate of nation's aging dams

Dying Guatemala lake underlines climate change threat

Teleconnection between the tropical Pacific and Antarctica

Large storms can flood aging sewer systems with harmful bacteria, viruses

Alaska Tundra Source of Early-Winter Carbon Emissions

Tillerson hosts Arctic forum in shadow of Russia spat

Irreversible ocean warming threatens the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf

Montana's glaciers are disappearing

Tillage farming damaging earthworm populations

Syngenta shareholders accept ChemChina offer

Conservation agriculture offers tired soil remedies

Can edible insects help curb global warming?

Another day on the job, in the eye of a hurricane

NASA spots Eastern Pacific season's earliest first tropical storm in satellite era

Eastern Canada is drying out after the worst flooding in a half-century

New tool could help predict, prevent surging waters in flood plains

Wounded author Kuki Gallmann vows return to Kenyan ranch

Gunfire as I.Coast troops resume protest despite 'apology'

Ivory Coast's rebel soldiers apologise to president

Army to protect Tunisia economy from protests: president

South African cave yields yet more fossils of a newfound relative

Changes in Early Stone Age tool production have 'musical' ties

Homo naledi's surprisingly young age opens up more questions on where we come from

Modern DNA reveals ancient origins of Indian population

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement