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|Posted: Thu Jul 08, 2010 6:16 pm Post subject: Lead May Have Poisoned More Than 2,000 Nigerians
|Lead May Have Poisoned More Than 2,000 Nigerians, UN Group Says
July 08, 2010, 1:21 AM EDT
By Kristine Aquino
July 8 (Bloomberg) -- At least 2,000 lead-poisoning victims in northern Nigeria may require treatment to remove the brain- damaging heavy metal in what the World Health Organization describes as an “unprecedented environmental emergency.”
More than 100 children in two villages in Zamfara state have lead concentrations in their blood that are almost 12 times higher than the level known to harm brain development in young children, the United Nations agency said in a statement on its website yesterday. The poisoning, which has been occurring since at least March, is related to the processing of lead-rich ore for the extraction of gold, the Geneva-based WHO said.
A seven-person WHO team found five other villages were also contaminated, and noted a “high incidence” of convulsions and death in infants. At least two-thirds of children require urgent treatment to extract the lead. The poisoning may be related to gold mining in the area by both a Chinese company and individual villagers, the BBC reported on its Web site yesterday.
“To prevent further deaths and long-term neurological impairment in affected children, it is essential that the lead contamination is removed from villages,” WHO said.
Lead is more harmful to children than adults because it can affect developing nerves and brains, the International Society for Infectious Diseases said in a report via its ProMED-mail program. Children exposed to high levels of lead may develop attention problems, reduced IQ and stunted growth, the report said.
Medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, set up two units in Zamfara’s general hospitals and is providing about 100 children chelation therapy to remove toxins, according to its website.
For the therapy to be effective, children should be temporarily removed from their villages until they have been decontaminated, WHO said.
“Considerably more resources are needed to decontaminate the other five villages and to identify and treat all of the children, as well as affected adults -- in particular pregnant women -- in these villages,” WHO said.
Zamfara authorities are working with the Blacksmith Institute and TerraGraphics Environmental Engineering Inc. to remove lead from soil, where tests show concentration levels are more than 250 times greater than the limits applied in France and the U.S., the WHO said.
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