‘Lead poison leaves over 7,000 children, women in critical health condition’
About 7,000 people, mostly women and children, are adversely affected due to lead poison associated with mining activities in gold bearing zone of Nigeria.
The states are Zamfara, Kebbi, Niger, Kaduna, FCT and Osun states. Six thousand are receiving medicine in these communities, which is sponsored by Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF).
With this, Nigeria ranks worse known in history of lead poison cases in the world, considering the incidences that occurred in 2010 and 2015 in the country.
Dr. Philip Aruna of MSF, who spoke with The Guardian in Abuja, said that initial outbreak was tackled with urgency, while children were not responding to medicine.
Aruna, a Head of Mission in Nigeria, said more than 10 villages are seriously contaminated with lead, which results to dead of over 400 children in these communities.
“Lead is a poisonous mineral, and cases of lead poison can be attributed to activities of artisanal miners, which means it cannot successful and sustainably prevented it in Nigeria.
“People earn more money in mining activities, especially in gold.
“Artisanal miners brought mineral processing into residential areas. Children are the most affected group, followed by women who used mortar to pound the lead rich ores and it constitutes the biggest problem,” he said.
He stated that generation could be lost to lead poison because it causes loss of Intelligent Quotient (IQ) in children, and called for national platform aimed at addressing this health challenge.
Also speaking, Dr. Simba Tirima of MSF stated that illegal mining should not be banned since it is source of income, but residential exposure could be curtailed and managed and focus on children.
He said that they are training environmental officers on remediation, which may not be the solution, but this programme could mitigate the scourge of lead poison in Zamfara and Niger states.
“Initially, when the incidence occurred in these communities, ministries of environment, health and mines and steel development were involved, but in long run, attention was not focused on how to salvage the people,” he said.
In a related vein, Associate Prof. Samson R. Akinola of Osun State University said evidence showed that mining activities within the last five decades or so have impoverished the host-communities.
He stated that Nigeria is not utilising solid minerals for manufacturing and industrialisation, adding that gold and limestone mining and blasting iron ore result in displacement, dislocation and other attendant health consequences.
“Pollutants from these, when inhaled by the people, caused health hazard such as cancer, blood contamination, bronchitis, tuberculosis, catarrhs and nasal discharges, and consequently death,” he said.