Blacksmith Intitute Press Release
Dominican Government Commits to Toxic Lead Cleanup
Agreement Signed To Work with Environmental Group and Community
SANTO DOMINGO, March 12, 2007 -- Blacksmith Institute, an independent environmental group, today announced it has reached an agreement with the government of the Dominican Republic to clean up severe lead pollution in Haina Township (town of Paraiso de Dios), near Santa Domingo. The agreement comes after nine months of meetings and exchanges between Blacksmith Institute representatives and government officials.&
"We have the commitment of the Dominican Republic's Environmental Minister, Max Puig, to participate in the clean up," said Richard Fuller, director of Blacksmith Institute. " Blacksmith Institute will provide the funding for the design stage of the clean-up, and this work will be hosted in the Ministry's offices. The effort will create a stakeholder group that will soon begin the work that will protect those living near the site. Until then, the health of children, especially, continues to be at grave risk."
Lead is a highly toxic substance. Even low levels of lead exposure can cause serious and life-long health problems especially in children, including lower IQ, shorter attention span, reading or learning disabilities, impaired physical growth and kidney damage. High levels of lead contamination can cause seizures and death.&
According to the United Nations, the population of Haina is considered to have the highest level of lead contamination in the world. The Haina site appears among the top 10 worst named in the report, Blacksmith Institute's Worlds Worst Polluted Places 2006 (www.worstpolluted.org).
The contamination in Haina is the result of a lead battery recycling operation once active at the site. The operation was closed down by the government but the lead itself was never properly remediated.