Positive Environment News

Shell disputes Brazil toxic site health report

Date: 29-Aug-01
Country: BRAZIL
Author: Sharon Cohen

Shell admitted in February that the factory had contaminated the groundwater and soil but not residents in Paulinia, 75 miles (120 km) northwest of Sao Paulo, where it produced Aldrin, Dieldrin and Endrin pesticides until 1990.

A health report released Thursday by the Paulinia City Hall showed that 156 of the 181 residents examined have some degree of contamination from metals or pesticides and 28 of the 50 children in the test group have chronic contamination.

Contamination could result in such ailments as tumors, neurological problems and hepatic disorders, the report said.

Those results clash with findings presented by Shell, using data collected by U.S. and Brazilian laboratories.

"In Shell's report, 159 people were examined and none were contaminated," Maria Lucia Braz Pinheiro, vice-president of the Shell's Latin American chemical division, told Reuters.

Both Braz Pinheiro and Dr. Flavio Zambrone, a toxicologist hired by Shell, accuse City Hall of using low benchmarks to measure contamination compared to those recommended by the World Health Organization.

"In the case of drins pesticides, the criteria to characterize contamination adopted by City Hall is 0.1 micrograms per liter, while the WHO criteria is 100 micrograms per liter," Zambrone said.


City Hall sent the report to the State Attorney to bolster its case against Shell. The company has requested 15 days to study the document before adopting any decision concerning residents and public authorities.

The report urged the evacuation in 30 days of the 260 residents in the contaminated areas of the neighborhood known as "Birds' Retreat".

Shell has already made a commitment to decontaminate the site and has provided drinking water, social counseling and medical exams for residents. But it believed that the contamination was not serious and required no drastic measures, like removal of residents.

The three pesticides Shell produced in Paulinia for some 15 years are among the 12 persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that almost 130 countries agreed to ban at a United Nations conference in Stockholm in May.

Dubbed the "dirty dozen", the chemicals remain in the environment for decades without breaking down and accumulate in the food chain.

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