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UNEP and OCHA Release Assessment of Lead Poisoning in Nigeria

7 January 2011: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have released a report entitled "Lead Pollution and Poisoning Crisis, Environmental Emergency Response Mission, Zamfara State, Nigeria."

Commissioned in response to reports of abnormally high rates of death and illness among children since the beginning of 2010, in the areas of Bukkuyum and Anka in Zamfara State in northern Nigeria, the report assessed lead and mercury contamination in drinking water, air and soil. Elevated concentrations of lead were identified in the soil, and mercury levels in air were determined to be nearly 500 times the acceptable limit.

Investigations concluded that the cause of the pollution and the subsequent acute lead poisoning is the processing of lead-rich ore for gold extraction taking place inside houses and compounds. According to UNEP, over 18,000 people have been affected and 200 children have died as a result of the poisoning.

Recommendations in the report include: taking greater measures to limit ore processing activities at sensitive sites, such as water sources from which humans and livestock drink; and cleaning up polluted villages as soon as possible to ensure that children suffering from lead poisoning can return to their villages for recovery and follow-up care after receiving treatment. [UNEP and OCHA Report] [UNEP Press Release]