Current Weather
The Spy FM

Nigeria Moves To Clean Up Lead Pollution From Gold Mines

Filed by KOSU News in Health.
February 6, 2013

Finally, the Nigerian government is fulfilling its promise to help thousands of kids, who have been exposed to toxic levels of lead.

After months of delay and red tape, the government has released $4 million to clean up lead in soil near illegal gold mines in northern Nigeria.

“We had a glass of champagne after the announcement,” says Ivan Gayton, who directs Doctors Without Borders in Nigeria. “But it’s not done yet. This is only the beginning of the work.”

For nearly a year now, Gayton and his medical team have wanted to treat roughly 1,500 children in the town of Bagega for lead poisoning. But the doctors didn’t have a safe place to set up clinics.

Gayton also says it would have been useless to try to clear lead out of kids’ systems only to send them back to a contaminated village.

The release of the funds will allow soil remediation to begin around Bagega, and then kids will have a safe place to return to after treatment.

Gayton says the contamination levels at Bagega are particularly high. “It may be one of the worst lead contamination sites in the world,” he tells Shots.

Lead poisoning in northern Nigeria has already killed more than 400 children and sickened thousands more.

About a decade ago, as the international price of gold rose toward record highs, villagers started mining gold from local rock formations.

Unfortunately, the gold deposits in this part of Nigeria run alongside veins of lead. As miners crush the ore to process it, they release toxic lead dust into the air.

Some children showed up at health clinics with blood lead levels above 400, or 40 times higher than what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is a cause for concern.

The lead poisoning has caused cognitive and developmental delays in children. In severe cases, kids were going into convulsions and even dying.

An Idaho-based company remediated the soil in several villages in the state of Zamfara, but the money to clean up Bagega had been tied up in the Nigerian bureaucracy for more than a year.

Doctors Without Borders physicians have been treating only the most severe cases of lead poisoning from Bagega, saying that more widespread treatment would be futile if the patients immediately return to a contaminated environment.

Gayton says the release of the remediation money is a major step forward for helping these kids.

But the long delay has exacted a heavy toll. “By now the most vulnerable children are already dead,” he says. [Copyright 2013 NPR]

Leave a Reply

12AM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center