John Libbey Eurotext

Environnement, Risques & Santé


The health risk linked to oil activities in the Ecuadorian Amazon: From alerts to decisions Volume 12, issue 4, Juillet-Août 2013

Institut d’études politiques de Toulouse (IEP) 2 ter, rue des puits-creusés 31000 Toulouse France, Géosciences Environnement Toulouse (GET)/ Université Paul Sabatier de Toulouse-IRD -CNRS-Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées 14, avenue E. Belin 31400 Toulouse France, CNRS/GET 31400 Toulouse France, IRD/GET 31400 Toulouse France

This article traces the long and difficult process of demonstrating the health impact associated with environmental contamination caused by the oil exploration and production underway in the Ecuadorian Amazon for the past 40 years. Contamination in the areas affected by oil activities is both accidental and chronic. The latter is more complex to perceive and demonstrate, due to the lack of visual evidence of oil products. Currently, the health consequences to local populations of environmental exposures have neither been described with precision, nor managed by public authorities. The history of governance in the Ecuadorian Amazon helps to illuminate the pathway that weak signals of environmental contamination and their health consequences have travelled through the public space, as well as the political conditions which explain the negligible impact. We demonstrate that public policy remains limited to repairing the social and environmental impact of oil contamination and that the health risks have not yet reached the political agenda despite their recent legal recognition.