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Test Shows that People Affected by Hydrodam Disaster are Contaminated with Nickel and Arsenic

March 2018

Little Sofya was only 10 months old when the Samarco dam broke in Mariana and hit Barra Longa in November 2015. Since then, Sofya has been suffering from allergies, skin blemishes, respiratory difficulties and leg pains. The situation has worsened since July 2016, as evidenced by the registration of entries and exits at health centers and hospitals, the medical prescriptions and the dates of the complaint at Samarco. The main reason is due to the fact that the town of Barra Longa, through a hired contractor, used ore tailings for street paving, including in Santa Terezinha, where Sofya and her family live.

The Sofya’s symptoms are also present in several other families along the affected area in Mariana and Barra Longa. The main symptom is allergy and itchy skin. Throughout the Rio Doce basin, stomach aches and hair loss are the main symptoms.

In this context, there was a study in Barra Longa that proves the contamination by metals of the affected population. Blood tests were performed in the first half of 2017, for total quantification of metals, in some people of the town. The results show that all those who have undergone the examination are above normal levels of nickel in the blood. Some also had elevated arsenic levels.

Sofya, who is now 3 years old, also did these tests and the result showed low level of zinc (concentration of 1302ug / L, when the reference is between 3,518 to 12,294) and high amount of nickel (concentration of 12.78 ug / l when the reference is between 0.12 and 2.9) in her blood.

Another affected person, who preferred not to be identified, also presented alarming results, the presence in the blood of higher amount of arsenic than the normal indicated – 3.7 ug / L for a reference between 0.1 and 3.2.

According to the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) [a Grassroots International partner], “Sofya’s family and many others will no longer accept this violation of rights. Health is a right that Samarco must guarantee, treat and indemnify. The State also needs to act to guarantee this right.”

The families want to know who will handle the treatments. In addition, they require information on possible contamination of Samarco’s water, food, milk and air wastes and possible risks of remaining exposed to the mud.

Those affected are demanding responses from governments, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and responsible companies (Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton) to resolve further this breach of law caused by the crime of the break of the Fundão dam.

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