Matanza-Riachuelo, Argentina

Site Name: Matanza-Riachuelo, Argentina


Pollutant: Volatile organic compounds, including toluene


Population Affected: 20,000+


Site Description:

The Matanza-Riachuelo River Basin is part of a 64-kilometer stream in Argentina that originates in the Buenos Aires province and empties into the Rio de la Plata on the border of Argentina and Uruguay. The basin houses a number of chemical manufactures and industrial factories. It is believed that around 5,000 industries are dumping industrial effluents into the river, which cuts through 14 municipalities in Buenos Aires, obviously affecting a great number of local residents. Chemical manufacturers are responsible for more than a third of the pollution. In total, there are more than 13 slums and 100 open-air garbage dumps on the banks of the river. Of the residents living in the slums, around half lack access to potable water.1


While the pollutants at this site vary greatly, the report has highlights the volatile organic compound (VOC) toluene to illustrate the severity of the problem. Concentration of toluene in air around the river basin was nearly 200 times the recommended level when it was last checked due to the numerous polluting industries located in close proximity to the river. This represents a severe threat, as over 20,000 people are potentially inhaling these toxic levels of toluene every day. Programs have been underway for almost a decade to deal with this issue, with limited success.






1 IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, 2009. Available at:

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Environmental Reports


Since 2007, the yearly environmental toxin reports published by Green Cross Switzerland and the Blacksmith Institute have been instrumental in increasing public understanding of the health impacts of toxic pollutants and their sources.


The Environmental Toxin Report 2012 describes known environmental toxins and points to their industrial applications and most frequent health effects. In addition, the Report identifies the ten most important sources of environmental toxins and quantifies, for the first time, the global scale of health damage due to toxic substances. It also shows that the health impacts of industrial pollutants measured are roughly equal to those of the three major global infectious diseases AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.


The Environmental Toxin Report 2011 is based on the estimated number of people affected by the sources of pollution, as well as the number of locations, identified worldwide, where environmental toxins occur in concentrations that are detrimental to health. Reports on the ten most dangerous sources of environmental toxins and the worst pollution problems were issued in the years 2008 and 2010. The environmental report published in 2009 contains case studies concerning successful remediation projects.

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