Big Pharma Is Flooding Puerto Rico With Toxic Waste


In Puerto Rico, cheap labor and generous tax breaks—since 2017, more than $100 billion worth—have made US-based pharmaceutical firms the biggest economic players in town. Drug manufacturers have brought in tens of thousands of jobs, albeit with a tax-break price tag of more than $1 million each. But a new report by the nonprofit Center for Popular Democracy and advocacy group Hedge Clippers suggests that Big Pharma’s footprint on the island has come with other serious costs: illegal dumping of toxic waste, pollution and depletion of groundwater, and violations of other vital Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The report, released Tuesday, paints a disturbing picture, holding US pharmaceutical corporations at least partially responsible for Puerto Rico’s disproportionately high rates of asthma and cancer. The sum of its findings: a pattern of environmental racism resulting in more than a dozen Big Pharma–related Superfund sites, with the complicity of federal and local authorities.

Puerto Rico is home to some 500 EPA-designated, toxin-packed Superfund sites, half of which were “active” as of July, meaning they pose an ongoing risk to the surrounding communities and ecosystems. Eighteen of its active sites are on the EPA’s “national priorities list,” which tracks areas most likely to release harmful compounds; of those, 15 are linked to the pharmaceutical industry. And Superfund sites don’t include every area where industries have improperly disposed of hazardous waste—just the most serious health and environmental threats.

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Mother Jones, 13-10-22