Saturday, June 16, 2007

CHERNOBYL IN THE CARIBBEAN


The uniqueness of baseball is not only the sport itself but those who play it. Our interest in the game makes us aware of the different cultures and countries from where the players originate. El Duque highlights Cuba, Hadeki profiles Japan and Melky Cabrera makes us aware of Haina, Santo Domingo. Haina is one of the most toxic places in the world. Little has been written about it. But much is to be learned. Only hours away from the American shore, it has the highest level of lead contamination in the world.


Potentially affected people: 85,000

Type of pollutants: Lead.

Lead Emissions from SmelterSite description: This highly populated area known as Bajos de Haina is severely contaminated with lead from a closed down automobile battery recycling smelter. The Dominican Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, since its creation in 2000, has identified Haina as a national hotspot of significant concern. Various studies have found alarming lead levels in the Haina community, with blood and soil levels several orders of magnitude over regular limits. The contamination is caused by the past industrial operations of the nearby Metaloxa battery plant. Although the company has moved to a new site (which is contaminating a new neighborhood, albeit less populous), the contamination still remains.
Child standing on battery casingThe most common symptom of Haina’s pollution is lead poisoning, which affects children's health and development. Kaul tested children near the auto battery recycling plant in Haina. When the plant closed in March 1997, 116 children were surveyed, and again in August 1997, 146 children were surveyed. Mean blood lead concentrations were 71 µg/dL (range: 9–234 µg/dL) in March and 32 µg/dL (range: 6–130 µg/dL) in August. The study revealed that at least 28% of the children required immediate treatment and that 5% had lead levels >79 µg/dL. Only 9% of these children were under the WHO recommended 9 µg/dL for maximum concentration. The children were also at risk for severe neurologic consequences at the time of the study.


Another study released by the Chemical Institute of Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) found lead levels in inhabitants over 100 parts per million (ppm), whereas "normal" levels in children are considered to be 10 ppm and for adults 20 ppm. Birth deformities, eye damage, learning and personality disorders, and in some cases, death from lead poisoning have also been reported at a higher than normal rate due to contamination caused by the past operations of the battery plant.

Cleanup Activity: In early planning stages, with Blacksmith Institute advice and support.

INFORMATION

Note: This site is included in the Top Ten as an example of lead battery re-processing facilities. These factories can be found in many major third world cities, and often leave a legacy of lead poisoning in their host communities. Haina is the most severely polluted site of this kind known to Blacksmith Institute.

J. Caravanos, R. Fuller. “Polluted Places—Initial Site Assessment”. Blacksmith Institute. (2006) February 22. http://www.blacksmithinstitute.org/docs/haina1.doc

B. Kaul, R. S. Sandhu, C Depratt, and F Reyes. “Follow-up screening of lead-poisoned children near an auto battery recycling plant, Haina, Dominican Republic”. Environmental Health Perspectives. (1999). 107 (11)

“Industrial Waste Minimization in the low Haina River Basin”
IWCAM/2nd%20Steering%20Cmttee%20Meeting/Dominican%20Republic%20Demo%20Submission%20040130.doc
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