Lead poisoning kills over 400 infants in Nigeria

Lead poisoning kills over 400 infants in Nigeria Abuja: Lead poisoning linked with illegal mining has claimed lives of more than 400 infants while over 500 persons were admitted in hospitals in a northern Nigerian state since November, a government agency said Tuesday.

According to Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), "over 400 kids have died and 500 persons admitted in hospitals in Zamfara State following an outbreak of lead poisoning."

"The immature body system of children exposed to contaminated soils and gold processing tools tends to rapidly absorb associated lead and in the process poisoning then leading to convulsion, paralysis and even death," said Muhammad Sani-Sidi, Director General of the NEMA.

Sani-Sidi was speaking at a National Workshop on the 'Mitigation of the Risk of Lead poisoning Associated with Gold Mining and Processing among Rural Communities in Zamfara State'.

June last year, a senior health official disclosed for the first time that 163 persons died due to inhalation of lead substances emanating from illegal mines.

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 commencing some illegal mining operations in the area sometime in March.

According to the ministry, most 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," he had said.

During a 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 why the death rate is high.