163 deaths due to lead poisoning in northern Nigeria

As many as 163 persons, most of them children, have died in recent weeks due to health hazards caused by inhalation of lead emanating from illegal mines.

Last Updated: Jun 05, 2010, 22:51 PM IST

Abuja: As many as 163 persons, most of
them children, have died in recent weeks due to health hazards
caused by inhalation of lead emanating from illegal mines in
northern Nigeria, a senior health official has said.

Henry Akpan, the chief epidemiologist at the Oil rich
African country`s ministry of health said some residents of
northern state of Zamfara became victims of poisoning after
illegal mining operations commenced in the area in March.

According to the ministry, 111 of the victims were
children, mostly those who played in contaminated water
flowing near the illegal mining sites.

"The children played near the leaching process or took
part in it, swallowing the lead by inhaling it or putting
their contaminated hands in their mouths," the health ministry
said.

During an yearly immunisation exercise carried out by
health officials in the area, it was discovered that there
were almost no children in the villages of Zamfara but the
adults mistook their sudden death to Malaria which is a common
ailment in the country.

Investigation by health officials revealed that an
abnormally large amount of lead was circulating in the
villagers` bodies which led to the discovery of the cause of
the high death rate.

The National President Miners Association of Nigeria,
Sunday Ekosin had recently said that stopping illegal mining
in the country would be a Herculean task unless it is
integrated into main stream mining.

PTI