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Down to Earth

Arsenic pollution: A toxic legacy of France's gold rush (part 2)

By: Mairead DUNDAS Follow | Juliette LACHARNAY | Valérie DEKIMPE | Julia GUGGENHEIM | Marie-Claire IDE
2 min

In October 2018, the equivalent of three months of rainfall was dumped on southwest France in just a few hours, swelling rivers and flooding fields and towns. The raging torrents reignited fears that arsenic pollution, already present in the waterways after decades of gold and arsenic mining, could be spread more widely over the Orbiel valley. The Down to Earth team went to take a closer look.


Independent tests taken after the floods in France's south-western Aude region revealed alarming levels of arsenic in the water and sediment, well above the safe limit for consumption.

According to health experts, the residents who are exposed to arsenic contamination in the Orbiel valley are now at a very high risk of cancer. For the moment, authorities have simply reminded citizens of longstanding recommendations such as washing hands regularly and avoiding locally grown fruit or leafy vegetables.

The Down to Earth team brings you the second episode in a two-part series about the toxic legacy of gold mining in southwest France.

Click here to watch part one.

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