Shell accused of mismanaging toxic waste in Brazil
SAO PAULO, Brazil - The Brazilian state of Sao Paulo this week accused a subsidiary of Anglo-Dutch group Royal Dutch/Shell of exposing at least 156 people to toxic pesticides in a rural town in the interior of the state.
The head of Sao Paulo\'s health watchdog agency told Reuters she supported a report by the city of Paulinia that said tests showed at least 156 of 181 residents living near a factory owned by Shell Quimica had \"unacceptable\" levels of at least one metal or pesticide in their bloodstream.
Chronic contamination was found in 88 people and 59 suffered from thyroid and liver tumors, the report said.
\"This is the hour when the company needs to admit to its error and do what needs to be done,\" Carvalho told Reuters. \"It\'s Shell\'s responsibility - the contamination of the environment and its contamination of the population.\"
But the company rejected the charges. \"The report put together by the (Paulinia) city hall is irresponsible and inconsistent, and in our exams there is no contamination,\" Maria Lucia Braz Pinheiro, vice president of Shell Quimica for Latin America, told Reuters.
Shell accuses Paulinia of using low benchmarks to measure contamination compared to those recommended by the World Health Organization.
Shell acknowledged in 1994 that it had polluted the soil and ground water at its pesticides plant in Paulinia, around 80 miles (130 km) northwest of Sao Paulo city.
At the time it promised to decontaminate the site and has provided drinking water, social counseling and medical exams for residents. But it denies the contamination affected residents.
Carvalho said the state had recommended that residents of the Recanto dos Passaros neighborhood near the factory be relocated.
\"Contrary to what Shell has said, the report, which is an official document, is totally consistent and responsible,\" Carvalho said.
Shell owned the factory between 1974 and 1995 but stopped producing Aldrin, Dieldrin and Endrin pesticides in 1990, when Brazil banned them. The United States outlawed the pesticides in the 1970s.
They 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 over 100 years without breaking down and accumulate in the food chain.
\"We know a lot of those products are carcinogenic. That means that the situation could be worse,\" Carvalho said.
Story by Sharon Cohen
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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