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Dozens treated for suspected pollution in Chile

#Dozens #treated #suspected #pollution #Chile

More than 100 people sought medical treatment this week after suspecting they were exposed to a pollutant in an area known as “Chilean Chernobyl” because of the environmental impact of heavy industry.

Local authorities declared an environmental emergency in the area, suspending classes and banning physical activity after the Quintero Air Quality Station reported a five-fold concentration of sulfur dioxide (SO2) in the air on Monday.

A total of 105 people – including 50 children – have sought help in the Valparaiso region towns of Quintero and Puchuncavi, complaining of headaches, eye and throat itching and nausea, the environmental agency SMA said late Wednesday.

Quintero prosecutors have launched an investigation into the incident.

Quintero and Puchuncavi, two coastal towns with a combined population of about 50,000, have been considered “sacrifice zones” since 1958, when the Chilean government converted a former fishing and farming community into an industrial hub.

Today it houses four coal-fired thermoelectric power plants, as well as oil and copper refineries.

Environmental group Greenpeace dubbed the area the “Chilean Chernobyl” after hundreds of people sought medical attention for symptoms ranging from dizziness and headaches to vomiting blood and paralysis of the extremities in a 2018 episode.

On Wednesday, Chilean Environment Commissioner Emanuel Ibarra ordered six companies operating in the region to “limit their manufacturing activities without affecting primary supplies”.

The companies include Chile’s main fuel company Copec.

On Tuesday, the regulator also ordered measures to reduce pollution from the operation of state-owned mining company Codelco – the world’s largest copper producer – and the Aes Andina thermoelectric power plant in the region.

Codelco, which accounts for eight percent of the world’s copper supply, said in a statement that its Ventanas smelter ceased operations Monday and will maintain “a voluntary suspension of operations” for maintenance.

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#Dozens #treated #suspected #pollution #Chile

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