[picture_frame source_type=”url” source_title=”hazardous chemicals” source_value=”https://www.sadakafirm.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/skullandcrossbones1.png” align=”left”] Human exposure to hazardous chemicals is a world-wide problem. In Nigeria, the Nigerian government’s failure to produce promised funding to clean up the worst lead poisoning outbreak in modern history is leaving thousands of children to die or face lifelong disability.
Last May, the Nigerian government pledged roughly $5 million to clean up lead contamination around illegal gold mines in northwest Nigeria. But so far, that money hasn’t been released and the lead continues to contaminate the landscape.
According to NPR, Human Rights Watch is hoping that a social media campaign will kick the government into action. It’s calling for people to send messages to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan through his Facebook page, urging him to release the remediation funds immediately.
(President Gooduck Jonathan’s Facebook page here – http://www.facebook.com/jonathangoodluck)
The lead is a byproduct of illegal gold mines. The raw gold ore is trapped in quartz, along with deposits of lead. As villagers dig and process the rock by hand, lead dust is released and spreads. Artisanal gold mines are found throughout Zamfara State
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter are cause for concern. Some children near the Nigerian gold mines have blood levels over 500 micrograms per deciliter.
The incident is one of the worst cases of environmental lead poisoning in modern history. Hundreds of kids have already died from severe lead poisoning. Thousands more have gotten sick, and others have been mentally stunted by the extremely high levels of the toxic metal.
Children are particularly susceptible to the harm caused by lead, and high levels of lead exposure can cause brain, liver, kidney, nerve, and stomach damage, as well as permanent intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“More than 400 children in Zamfara State have died from lead poisoning according to official estimates,” said Babatunde Olugboji, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch. “Unless the promised funds are released immediately, cleanup of the contaminated areas won’t be able to start until after next year’s rainy season, leaving thousands more children at risk of death and permanent disability.”
Ivan Gayton, who heads up Doctors Without Borders in Nigeria, an independent international organization for medical humanitarian aid that has provided life-saving treatment to more than 2,000 children in Zamfara, told the news site Global Post that a delay in the clean up could be disastrous. “Many hundreds or even thousands of children are desperately awaiting treatment,” Gayton said. “But there’s absolutely nothing we can do until the remediation is done.”
They cannot treat the thousands of children who remain in urgent need until environmental cleanup has been completed because treating children when they are still actively exposed to lead makes their bodies more susceptible to the harms of lead poisoning.
Over the last three years, TerraGraphics, a US-based company, has worked with local Nigerian staff to clean up seven villages in Zamfara and has provided initial support to clean up Bagega, which has about 8,000 residents. The environmental cleanup of Bagega, which will only happen if President Jonathan releases the promised funds, must begin by mid-January to ensure it can be completed before the rainy season begins.
“If President Jonathan does not release these funds right away, children in Bagega will be forced to continue living in poisoned homes,” said Hamzat Lawal, co-founder of NYCAN and a technical adviser to the group. “Children in Bagega are dying. If we wait another year to clean up the conditions that are poisoning these children, more children will die or become permanently disabled.”
“We have reached a crisis point in Zamfara,” Olugboji said. “Thousands of children live in a toxic environment and are in urgent need of treatment. President Jonathan needs to make good on his promise and release the promised funds before the window of opportunity before the rainy season closes. But he needs to act right away.”