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Death Breathing

The ‘valley of death’ is a nickname given to a town in Brazil that is known as Cubatao. It was given this name because of the high pollution that the industries in that area effused. Pollution was so high that the nearby forest was covered by fumes. Pollution rate was so devastating in this area that it killed all that one would expect to see in a nuclear blast zone. Due to this, the town was rated as the most polluted town of the world in 1984.

The pollution in the town brought about many diseases that affected residents of the town. Statistics show that many people suffered from breathing problems. Over 100,000 residents of Cubatao suffered with pulmonary edemas, bronchial infections, leukemia, skin cancer and other diseases that were caused by pollution. The toxic emissions came from the oil refineries, steel mills fertilizer and petrochemical.

Several organizations such as the United Nations came out strongly to criticize this major environmental problem that was distracting the human livelihood. The government of Brazil has also played a key role in mitigating the pollution in Cubato. It formed the State Environmental Control Agency that campaigned against pollution. Before it began its campaigns, the smoke spewed by 23 industries was 500 tons per day, which later dropped down to 165 tons per day. This is an ethical activity from the agency side.  It significantly reduced the risk of being infected.

The pollution in Cubatao’s city affected the surrounding environment. The mountains became trapped with poisonous gases that had been emitted from industries. The soil was also affected by poisonous gases. This made soil become acidic. The presence of foreign materials makes rain be acidic too.

There are various theories where issues that are there in case of death breathing are developed. These theories are the social ethical theory and the consequential theory. The social ethical theory focuses on the obligation of firms to take care of external costs that come about due to pollution. The consequential theory is concerned with consequences that results from the pollution.

Ethical Framework

The way different organizations, including The United Nations, have tried to combat the pollution in the town of Cubatao is explained through the social morality theory. It focuses on the ethics that benefit society. In the ‘valley of dead’, the government has tried to come up with policies that have minimized the risks that are involved with pollution.

There is another theory referred as consequential theory. The theory focuses on the results that come from the pollution. The theory is useful in alerting industries on consequences of polluting the environment and failure to take responsibility.

There are many diseases that come about due to pollution. These diseases are very devastating to one’s health. They include pulmonary edemas, skin cancer and bronchial infections. Companies that pollute environment have a social obligation to factor in costs that are involved with the environment. There is a social theory that explains that the people who pollute should be charged for the pollution.

 Issues in the Case

The case presents various issues that can be described from the perspective of an employer and an employee. The issues included in the case are: privacy, discrimination, diseases caused by pollution, ways in which various institutions have tried to curb the pollution and the success of good pollution maintenance.

Employer’s Side of View

When pollution is mitigated the employer is able to work in a serene and clean environment. Employers have an obligation to take care of costs that are brought about by pollution of this industry. In real life situations, majority of employers are not concerned with the environment in which they live. They rarely care whether the pollution that their firms emit affects the public. They solely want to maximize the firm’s profits.

The employers are faced by a situation, through which the issue of privacy dominates and influences the way they do things. They avoid catering for the external costs that come with the activities of firms. The external marginal cost is not factored in the production. The employers always want to run away from this cost because when they are factored they increase the cost of production. The external cost increases the cost of production.

The Issue of Discrimination

The issue of discrimination poses a challenge in the work place. When people are discriminated in their work places, they feel discouraged and left out. These people do not fully utilize their capability to optimum. The company ends up under utilizing the human capital that it has. The production level also goes down. Firms should come up with a policy to ensure employees are never discriminated.


Cubatao began to have rapid industrialization starting in early 1950s. People who did set up industries together with the government were ignorant of the effects of industrialization. Companies continued to set up more and more industries in this area. The environment became affected by the poisonous gases that were emitted in these industries. The soil was not spared either. It became acidic and crops could not grow in this area. Animals of the sea were also destroyed by the pollution. The pollution in this area was so intense that some of the children that were born during that time did not have brains and some of them died as a result of the emissions from the industries.

The employers in today’s society should be keen on the developments that their businesses are undergoing. The employers should make provisions for any developments or any negative impact of the activity that is being carried out. This will ensure that the firm does not incur losses in the future. Firms should not be ignorant of any changes that are occurring in the environment. Firms should also maintain the environment they have conducted. It should be free from the pollution.

The Employee

The employee is also faced with issues that affect the company. This is because he is part and parcel of the company. In the perspective of the employee the issue on privacy on the firm also affects the employee. The employee is affected by the activities of the firm directly or indirectly. When the firm is concerned with only internal costs and assume the external costs, the employee may face the problem of catering for those costs in his behave.

 Pros and Cons of Ethical Approaches

Different ethical approaches in the case study have both the advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages are:

The social morality theory considers society that is being affected by the pollution. The costs are transferred to the company or the firm that is being involved. This ensures that damages that are caused by pollution are fixed.  When the cost is factored in, the industry polluting the environment is cautious and will minimize the pollution, so as to ensure that its profits are maximized. This also reduces the level of the environmental pollution. Diseases that are caused through the pollution are minimized too. In the town of Cubatao, people were not responsible for the environment. This leaded to emergence of various human diseases that were linked to pollution. The challenge goes further and the fish in waters were also affected. In this town, the fish became unheard of due to the pollution.

The theory of consequentialism in ethics is appropriately applied in the case. The theory is concerned with consequences that resulted from some of the actions that were taken by a firm or individual. In Cubatao, the environment was not taken good care off. There was pollution that led to destruction of environment. The pollution led to pollution diseases that included breathing problems, pulmonary edema and skin diseases. The theory considers that the firm should be in a position to take good care of these consequences before they can happen.

Another advantage of the ethical theory is that it instills the culture of being responsible for the environment that we live in. The environment that we live in should be taken good care off and should be maintained.

Disadvantages are:

The theory on consequentialism in ethics has some set back. The theory focuses on the consequences rather that how to minimize the pollution that is causing the problem. In the real life situation, when the employers in the business focus too much on the consequences that a certain action will bring it affects the performance of the business.

Assumptions by Ethical Theory

The social moral ethical theory has been developed in the case study and assumes that the firms freely consider the external costs to the society. The firms rarely consider the external social costs unless the government comes in and sets certain tax that stands for the externalities.

In some cases, the pollution is beyond the cost that the firms pay and, at times, it is not quantifiable in monetary terms. The theory of social morality assumes that that the external costs are measured in monetary terms.

The theory of consequentialism in ethics only assumes the final result. It does not focus on how to solve the problem that it is underway. This assumption makes the theory weak because it does not provide a mechanism, in which the problem is solved.

Questions Arising

There are various questions that arise from the case study. When some firms are very determine in the implementation of the programs that are used to ensure that pollution is mitigated, others are very slow to implementing. Cetesb officials complained in 1986 that several companies wanted to be given a three year extension to the implementation for meeting the emission deadline.

In the real life situation, this problem of lack of enthusiasm arises. Parties that are involved in business, some of them are slow due to implementation of policies that have been set aside. This makes external costs to continue affecting the society, because the parties that should bore that cost are not cooperative.

In Brazil, the culture of people is not concerned with the environment and has staged a lot of problems in mitigating the pollution levels. People have been brought up in a tradition that does not consider the importance of maintaining the environment. The firms emit very dangerous gases that have continued to destroy the forest cover and the environment at large. This has made employers on the county to become more relaxed in terms of the responsibility of taking care of the environment.

The employees, on the other hand, do not have a culture, in which they are good preservative of the environment, too. This is one of the reasons that the small town of Cubatao was pathetic when the pollution was at high levels at this place.


The town of Cubatao was highly polluted during 1984. The city was classified as the most polluted town in the world. The pollution brought devastating effects to the environment. There were diseases that affected a large number of people, including many children.

There are several theories that were used to explain the ethical issues concerned with the case. They include the social ethical and the consequential theories. The social ethical theory explains the importance of the industries having the social obligation in maintaining the environment. The industries are obliged to take care of the external costs that cater for the pollution of the environment.

There are various assumptions that the theories above assume. The social ethical theory assumes that the industries are concerned with the environment and will always take good care of the environment. The consequential theory assumes the end results only. It does not consider the way that problems of pollution should be minimized. According to the case, the theory details the diseases that are brought about by the pollution.

There are both pros and cons that are concerned with the social ethical and consequential theories. The advantages of the social ethical theory are: the external costs are taken care of; this makes firms become responsible with their activities. The pollutant gases that they emit in the environment are also minimized. In order to minimize the external costs, the firms reduce the pollutant of the environment. The advantage of consequential theory is that the firms will be able to predetermine the consequences that results from failure to take precautions and mitigate pollution. The disadvantages of these two theories are their assumptions. The consequential assumes the end results only.

There are various issues that were raised in this paper; they include discrimination, privacy and ignorance. Firms that discriminate its workers and their performance level usually goes down. This is because workers become demotivated and demoralized when they are discriminated against something. The employers should, therefore, try hard not to discriminate against their employees. The issue of ignorance is important as the businesses or industries should be keen in looking at issues or developments that may affect them either positively or negatively. During early 1950s, managers and the government did not affect the negative effects that were related to the activities of industrialization. The pollution affected the thousands of people that were living within the area.

The Brazil government has made great efforts to come up with policies that have seen this area that was commonly called ‘valley of death’ transform and become live again. Today, there is a good environment that is covered with verdant mantle of trees and bushes that cover the mountains. For a long time the environment was filled with clouds of ammonia.

Problems of pollution have been successfully solved in Cubatao. The town has moved from the worst pollute town in the last decade to one of the cleanest environment to live in. Every person or firm have an obligation to ensure that the environment is taken good care. The pollution of the environment should be minimized.

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