UN Urges Clean-up Following Acute Lead Poisoning in Nigeria
Feb 09, 2011
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have released a report calling on Nigerian authorities to prevent further lead poisoning in northern Nigeria. The report recommends taking greater measures to limit ore processing activities at sensitive sites, such as water sources from which humans and livestock drink.
Abnormally high rates of death and illness among children have been recorded since the beginning of 2010 in the areas of Bukkuyum and Anka in Zamfara State in northern Nigeria. Investigations by the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit revealed that the cause is acute lead poisoning from the processing of lead-rich ore for gold extraction taking place inside houses and compounds. Over 18,000 people have been affected and 200 children have reportedly died as a result of the poisoning.
The new report is based on the findings of a sampling and analysis mission requested by the Federal Ministry of Health of Nigeria in September 2010. The mission was supported by four technical experts and used equipment from the Environmental Assessment Module (EAM), a mobile laboratory designed and assembled specifically for international deployment provided by the Government of the Netherlands.
The mission focused on determining quantities of lead in ground and surface water, building on previous investigations in Zamfara State. High levels of lead pollution were found in the soil, and mercury levels in air were determined to be nearly 500 times the acceptable limit.
Water: The mission found that drinking water from wells did not meet World Health Organisation (WHO) and Nigerian standards (10 micrograms per liter) for lead limits, and in at least one case exceeded this limit more than tenfold. Water in ponds was often highly contaminated. However, no boreholes were found to have been contaminated, indicating that lead pollution most likely remains confined to areas where processing has taken place, and has not yet spread throughout the groundwater.
Soil: In the four villages visited that have not undergone clean-up, the soil was often highly polluted with lead. Since young children readily ingest soil as part of normal hand-to-mouth behaviour, such high concentrations expose children to potentially harmful amounts of lead.
Air: The levels of mercury in air were found to be nearly 500 times the maximum exposure for non-industrial workers in the Netherlands.
The response will involve medical care for the most severe cases of lead poisoning among children under five, and decontamination of houses and villages. Both activities are needed because medical treatment alone is ineffective if children return home to contaminated homes and are re-exposed to lead. Many children over five, as well as adults, who have been tested in the affected areas also have extremely high levels of lead in their blood and may require treatment.
The medical response is being lead by Médecins sans Frontières (MSF Holland), together with WHO and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Nigeria, supporting local authorities and the Nigerian Ministry of Health.
The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has allocated US$2 million in response to the crisis.
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
New York, NY 10017, USA
Tel: +1 (212) 963-1234
Fax: +1 (212) 963-1013
More News and Articles
Mar 29, 2023
Water management: Spain invests nearly 23 billion euros
The Spanish government improves its water management and will invest nearly 23 billion euros to comply with European Water Directives.
Mar 27, 2023
UN World Water Day 2023: How municipalities can accelerate the water transformation
The United Nations is proclaiming the motto “Accelerating Change” for World Water Day on 22 March. The message: because the pressure on drinking water reserves is increasing worldwide, the change towards sustainable water use must be accelerated.
Mar 24, 2023
Innovative technologies remove pharmaceutical residues from wastewater
Every year on 22 March, World Water Day reminds us of the importance of one of the most important resources of life. Almost two-thirds of our planet is covered with water, but not even three percent is drinkable freshwater. Every …
Mar 22, 2023
Delivering sustainable solutions to solve water challenges
With British Water’s conference on creating a more sustainable water sector approaching, Stephen Kennedy, head of digital and innovation at MWH Treatment shares his views on celebrating recent successes in creating a more sustainable sector while also discussing the challenge …
Mar 20, 2023
Supporting the National Water Strategy through scientific research
This month, the federal government of Germany introduced the first National Water Strategy. “With this strategy, the federal government is shining a spotlight on the necessity of integrated water resource management, serving as a leading example of resource use in …
Mar 17, 2023
Trenchless manufacturer celebrates installation of 100,000th liner
SAERTEX multiCom®’s trenchless pipe relining product, SAERTEX-LINER, has been installed for the 100,000th time.
Mar 15, 2023
Versatile electric pipe-cutter makes UK debut
The first all-electric battery-operated lateral pipe-cutter to enter the UK market has secured sole distribution with pipeline equipment specialist Ant Hire Solutions.
Mar 13, 2023
Spring collaborates with Microsoft and Impact X on water innovation
The water sector’s innovation centre of excellence – Spring - is collaborating with Microsoft and Impact X on a new initiative to make tools and funding available for start-ups to accelerate their companies.
Mar 10, 2023
State of Global Water Resources report informs on rivers, land water storage and glaciers
WMO reports on freshwater availability in a changing climate
Mar 08, 2023
Australia: Centenarian sewer gets after-dark upgrade
Over 100 years since its inception, Brisbane’s S1 Main Sewer has undergone a seven-year upgrade.
Mar 06, 2023
UKWIR gives access to hundreds of water sector research reports
UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) is providing free access to over 1,000 of its water sector research reports aimed at helping to improve water and wastewater services for customers, and protecting the environment.
Mar 03, 2023
Sector must challenge public misconceptions through engagement
The water sector must tackle “unfair criticisms” by sharing more about the great work it delivers, Yorkshire Water’s chief executive, Nicola Shaw, told attendees at British Water’s Better Together reception in Hull.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)