The investigation begins in Iraq, in the oil fields which extend from Nahr Umar to Halfaya. Black gold is a sensitive subject, a notorious source of conflict throughout Iraq’s recent history. This region is as rich as it is dangerous. We meet local people who are convinced that pollution from flares at the oil refineries is responsible for a rise in illness, including breathing difficulties and childhood cancer. The site is vital for Iraq. It supplies energy to more than half the country.
We conduct a study to measure the levels of carcinogenic pollutants in the local community and reveal that children in the local area have benzene levels 70 times higher than the threshold recommended by the US health authorities. The levels of the dangerous toxin naphthalene are the highest ever found in the scientific literature. According to this data, Iraqi children have eleven times more naphthalene in their bodies than German children and fifteen times more than American children. This chemical has no threshold effects. This means that just the presence of one molecule is dangerous for health.
We present our findings to the Minister, Walid Al Moussawi. As a result, he is preparing a case against Total Energies, the oil giant responsible for the flares at Nahr Umar.
However this danger is not unique to Iraq. We meet people in Gonfreville-l’Orcher, near Le Havre in France, who are concerned that pollution from the local oil refinery is triggering respiratory problems in their children. We are refused access, pursued by the oil company’s private security, and even reported to the police, but our tests show that the soil in local allotments is severely contaminated with Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – 112 times above background levels.
Our film bears witness for these people whose lives have been blighted by the oil industry.
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