Fire at Mexican pesticide plant

August 28, 1991

Fire at Mexican pesticide plant

Mexican environmentalists need international support for their effort to have an ecological disaster investigated by the country's Human Rights Commission.

On May 3, fiery explosions engulfed a pesticide warehouse and mixing plant owned by Veracruz National Agriculture, a private firm located in Cordoba, Veracruz.

More than 500 people were poisoned by toxic clouds that billowed from the fire, as an estimated 8000 litres of methyl parathion, 8000 litres of paraquat, 3000 litres of 2,4-D and 500 litres of pentachlorophenol were burned or spilled from the site. Army troops helped evacuate 1800 people from 15 neighbouring districts, including a nearby school.

Rosalinda Huerta, a state representative and ecology commissioner, said that the burning pentachlorophenol had probably contaminated the area with highly carcinogenic dioxins.

Firefighters flushed the toxins into a nearby river, contaminating the local water supply, and added to the number of chemical burn victims by instructing people to sweep up chemical spills in front of their houses.

Area residents, fearing such an accident, had demanded a plant shutdown for years. The prominent Mexican environmental organisation Group of 100 charged the government with covering up the severity of the disaster, and Huerta is asking the National Human Rights Commission to set a precedent by reviewing this case as an ecological human rights violation.

To support Huerta's petition, write to Dr Jorge Carpizo McGregor, Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, Periferico Sur 3469 Col. San Jeronimo Lidice, CP 10200 Mexico DF, Mexico; fax (52-5) 6819793. — Pesticide Action Network North America Updates Service/Pegasus

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