Stopping a Peruvian Smelter from Emitting Toxic Pollutants

The people—especially the children—of La Oroya in the Peruvian Andes, suffer terrible health effects from air pollution emitted by a lead smelter operated by an American company.

Case Overview

The Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, prompted by Earthjustice and its partner AIDA, has repeatedly urged the Peruvian government to come to the rescue of the people—especially the children—of La Oroya in the Peruvian Andes, who suffer terrible health effects from air pollution emitted by a lead smelter operated by an American company.

In fact, the groups first went to the Peruvian courts and secured an order for medical treatment for the victims, but the Peruvian health ministry ignored the court order. It has also ignored requests from the human rights commission.

The effort to rescue the people of La Oroya continues.

Doe Run Peru’s smelter emits such enormous quantities of pollution that many residents suffer from chronic respiratory illnesses and nearly all the children in the city have lead poisoning.
La Oroya is one of the most contaminated cities on the planet. Doe Run Peru’s smelter emits such enormous quantities of pollution that many residents suffer from chronic respiratory illnesses and nearly all the children in the city have lead poisoning. (Photo courtesy of AIDA)

Case Updates

April 16, 2024 In the News: Context

Peru pollution ruling a ‘gigantic step’ for environmental justice

Jacob Kopas, Attorney, International Program: “This case is the first time that the court is … really recognising a connection between the health of an environment and the health of human communities. Now with this precedent, we can point to it and say yes you have access to justice – this has been recognised as a human rights violation.”

About six people stand together during a protest in a city
March 28, 2024 Article

Historic Court Decision Puts Big Polluters on Notice in Latin America

An international court ruled in favor of the people of La Oroya, Peru, finding that the government violated their right to a healthy environment.

A small neighborhood in a valley with a large smoke stack rising out of a factory.
March 22, 2024 Press Release: Victory

Inter-American Court Ruling on La Oroya Case Sets Key Precedent for the Protection of a Healthy Environment

The Court found Peru responsible for violating the rights of residents of La Oroya, who have been exposed to unsafe levels of toxic contamination for generations