Rights Violations in the Ecuadorian Amazon: The Human Consequences of Oil Development

Health Hum Rights. 1994;1(1):82-100.


Since 1972, companies have extracted almost two billion barrels of crude oil from the Ecuadorian Amazon (Oriente), and in the process have released billions of gallons of untreated toxic wastes and oil directly into the environment. Indigenous federations and environmental groups in Ecuador have organized in opposition to unregulated oil development, charging that contamination has caused widespread damage to both people and to the environment. Yet, faced with a weak economy and pressure from foreign creditors, the government is rapidly proceeding with plans to increase oil production. Little human rights advocacy or scientific research has been done on health effects of oil contamination in the Oriente. Exposure to crude oil and its constituents is harmful to human health, ranging from minor symptoms such as headache, nausea, and dermatitis to cancers and adverse effects on reproduction and immune response. This paper is one of the first attempts to apply the right to health and a healthy environment in assessing the human consequences of a country's development policies.