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Lead contamination in Santo Amaro, Bahia, Brazil


In 1960 the Companhia Brasileira de Chumbo (Cobrac), a former subsidiary of Penarroya Oxide S.A (Metaleurop), and currently part of the Trevo group, settled in the municipalities of Santo Amaro da Purificacao and Boquira to start the exploitation and processing of lead ore. The minerals extracted at the mine of Boquira - mainly Galena and Cerusita - were transformed into ingots of lead in Santo Amaro. Such a transformation occurred through a process of synthesis.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Lead contamination in Santo Amaro, Bahia, Brazil
State or province:Bahia
Location of conflict:Santo Amaro da Purificacao e Boquira
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Chemical industries
Specific commodities:Lead
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Cobrac processing 30 thousand tons of Lead per year.

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Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:57000
Start of the conflict:1990
Company names or state enterprises:Companhia Brazileira de Chumbo (COBRAC) from Brazil
Penarroya Oxide S.A from France
Metaleurop from France
Grupo Trevo from Brazil
Relevant government actors:State Government of Bahia, City Hall of Santo Amaro, Conselho Nacional de Segurana Alimentar e Nutricional - Consea, Centro de Recursos Ambientais - CRA, Fundacao Nacional de Saude - Funasa, Coordenacao Geral de Vigilancia em Saude Ambiental do Ministerio da Saude , Superintendencia de Vigilancia e Protecao da Sade (Suvisa) da Secretaria da Saude do Estado da Bahia
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Instituto de Desenvolvimento Ambiental (IDA), Departamento de Medicina Preventiva da Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBA), Associacao de Preservacao do Patrimonio Bantu (Acbantu), Associacao das Vitimas da Contaminacao por Chumbo, Cadmio, Mercurio e Outros Elementos Quimicos (AVICCA), Movimento Popular de Saude Ambiental de Santo Amaro (MOPSAM)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Industrial workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project cancelled
Realization of a public hearing by Plataforma Dhesca Brazil. Creation of a virtual space of discussion of local problems by MOPSAM.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The Cobrac is currently closed, but the impacts generated by the company have not been mitigated and contamination remains.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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ANJOS, J..S.A.; SANCHEZ, L.E. Plano de gestao ambiental para sitios contaminados por residuos industriais - o caso da Plumbum em Santo Amaro da Purificacao/BA. Bahia Analises e Dados, Salvador, v. 10, n. 4, p. 306-309, mar.2001. ISSN 0103 8117. Disponivel em:

PORTELLA, R.B. et al. Desativacao de uma metalrugica em Santo Amaro da Purificacao, BA: Passivo ambiental e deficit institucional. In: ENCONTRO DA SOCIEDADE BRASILEIRA DE ECONOMIA ECOLOGICA, 7, 05 a 07 ago., 2008, Cuiaba. Trabalhos. Cuiaba: ECO ECO, 2008. 21 p. p. Disponivel em:

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CARVALHO, F.M. et al. Intoxicao pelo chumbo: Zinco protoporfirina no sangue de crianas de Santo Amaro da Purificao e de Salvador, BA. Jornal de Pediatria, v. 72, n. 5, p. 295-298, 1996. ISSN 0021-7557. Disponvel em:

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ALMEIDA, M.D.; PENA, P.G.L. Feira livre e risco de contaminacao alimentar: Estudo de abordagem etnografica em Santo Amaro, Bahia. Revista Baiana de Sade Publica, Salvador, v. 35, n. 1, p. 110-127, jan/mar.2011. ISSN 0100-0233. Disponivel em:
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PELLEGRINI, Marcelo. Santo Amaro da Purificacao: Interesses dubios e Judiciario letargico abandonam cidade ao chumbo. Carta Capital, 09 fev. 2012. Disponivel em: Acesso em: 16 jul. 2012.
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RODRIGUES, Alean. Vitimas do chumbo em Santo Amaro fazem manifestacao e pedem indenizacao. A Tarde, 28 nov. 2009. Disponivel em: Acesso em: 16 jul. 2012.
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Acesso em: 16 jul. 2012.

GARDENAL, Isabela. Criancas tem altas concentracoes de chumbo nos dentes em cidade na BA. Jornal da UNICAMP, 03 abr. 2011. Disponivel em:
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

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Contributor:Diogo Rocha
Last update18/08/2019
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