Nigerian Lead Poisoning Situation Improving Slowly

CDC helped to investigate widespread poisoning caused by mining activities. Villagers continue to be affected, but childhood mortality has dropped in seven villages.

The World Health Organization has posted an update on a mass lead poisoning caused by mining in Nigeria's Zamfara State that was discovered in March 2010 and investigated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control at the request of the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health. Lead poisoning continues to affect villagers, WHO said Nov. 11.

People living in at least 43 villages were confirmed to be experiencing lead poisoning (blood lead concentration about 10 μg/dL), children in at least seven of the villages need chelation therapy (blood lead concentration above 45 μg/dL), and seven villages have been remediated, WHO said.

As a result, the mortality rate among exposed children in seven remediated villages has dropped from 43 percent in 2010 to 1 percent in 2011, according to the report. However, the situation won't be completely resolved until ore processing activities and storage of ore are moved away from villages, new methods are used to produce less dust, and hygiene measures such as removing contaminated clothes and washing before returning home are practiced.

Agencies involved in this project have included WHO, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Joint Environment Unit, Médecins Sans Frontières, CDC, the Blacksmith Institute, TerraGraphics Environmental Engineering Inc., and the Artisanal Gold Council, working with authorities and leaders at the community, state, and federal levels. Funding of $1.9 million was provided by the UN Central Emergency Response Fund to WHO and UNICEF.

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