Africa: Lead in the Blood - the Poisoning of a Generation


A study by University of Zambia researchers published in 2015 in the journal 'Chemosphere' found that each of the 246 children under the age of seven it screened had enough lead in their blood to cause neurological impairments.

By 1927, Anglo American had obtained a controlling interest in a decades' old lead mine north of Lusaka. Today, the mine may be closed, but its legacy lives on in the tiny bodies of the children that grow up in its shadow and who carry traces of its ore in their blood. Their poisoning is just the latest in a cycle that will leave lasting intellectual and physical burdens on them and their children for generations to come.

Years have passed, but Kasuba* still remembers when she was tested for lead as a child of about eight.

A sign at the old mine site is intended to deter residents of Kabwe from entering, but many come here anyway for small-scale mining, 2018. (Photo: Human Rights Watch / Juliane Kippenberg)

The World Health Organisation says there is no safe level of lead exposure. But the amount of the metal in Kasuba's blood was up to 12 times higher than the levels a WHO...

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