Firm Files Suit on Behalf of 137 Peruvian Children Living Near Lead Smelter

Schlichter Bogard & Denton

Schlichter Bogard & Denton filed a lawsuit in St. Louis on October 4, 2007 by Sister Kathleen Reid, a Catholic nun, and Megan Heeney, a social justice advocate, on behalf of 137 Peruvian children and young adults alleging serious injuries as a result of being exposed to toxic substances emitted from Doe Run Company's lead smelter near La Oroya, Peru. The suit alleges that adequate technologies and processes exist to prevent the pollution caused by Doe Run's La Oroya metal complex, but Doe Run has not implemented such technology.

The Doe Run Company, which owns the La Oroya metal complex, is based in suburban St. Louis and is the second largest total lead producer in the world. The suit alleges that Doe Run Company is owned by The Renco Group, Inc., a private New York-based holding company.

The suit alleges that The Renco Group, through Doe Run, purchased the La Oroya metal complex in 1997. Since 2005, a group of research scientists from Saint Louis University School of Public Health in Saint Louis, Missouri have conducted studies of the children in La Oroya. The Saint Louis University Study shows that over 99 percent of children in La Oroya have blood lead levels of greater than 10 ug/dL, which is the level the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization set as requiring intervention. The researchers found that many of the children have blood lead levels of greater than 45 ug/dL, which are levels that constitute a medical emergency. The researchers have called the situation in La Oroya a public health crisis.

The negative health effects of lead poisoning are widely known. Lead impacts nearly every organ and system of the human body and is not safe at any level in children. Lead causes a multitude of serious injuries to the nervous system, which can lead to convulsions, coma and brain death. Because of their tendency to make hand-to-mouth contact and the way that lead is incorporated into the developing bones of children, children experience the serious negative effects of lead at much lower levels of exposure than adults. The suit alleges that the young people represented have suffered learning and behavioral disorders, memory loss, nausea, anemia, hearing loss, fatigue, colic, hypertension, and mylagia as a result of their exposure to lead emitted from Doe Run's metallurgical complex.

The Saint Louis University researchers also found that people in La Oroya have elevated levels of cadmium and arsenic, two chemicals that are known to cause cancer. The suit also alleges that sulfur dioxide is another chemical that is emitted by the Doe Run complex and that has allegedly harmed the plaintiffs. Sulfur dioxide damages the circulatory and respiratory system, increases mortality, and is linked to lung cancer.