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Outbreak of Fatal Childhood Lead Poisoning Related to Artisanal Gold Mining in Northwestern Nigeria, 2010.

By C A Dooyema, A Neri, Y-C Lo, J Durant, P I Dargan, T Swarthout, O Biya, S O Gidado, S Haladu, N Sani-Gwarzo, P M Nguku, H Akpan, S Idris, A M Bashir and M J Brown


Background: In May 2010, a team of national and international organizations was assembled to investigate children's deaths due to lead poisoning in villages in northwestern Nigeria. Objectives: To determine the cause of the childhood lead poisoning outbreak, investigate risk factors for child mortality, and identify children aged <5 years in need of emergency chelation therapy for lead poisoning. Methods: We administered a cross-sectional, door-to-door questionnaire in two affected villages, collected blood from children aged 2-59 months, and soil samples from family compounds. Descriptive and bivariate analyses were performed with survey, blood-lead, and environmental data. Multivariate logistic regression techniques were used to determine risk factors for childhood mortality. Results: We surveyed 119 family compounds. One hundred eighteen of 463 (25%) children aged <5 years had died in the last year. We tested 59% (204/345) of children, aged <5 years, and all were lead poisoned (≥10 µg/dL); 97% (198/204) of children had blood-lead levels ≥45 µg/dL, the threshold for initiating chelation therapy. Gold ore was processed inside two-thirds of the family compounds surveyed. In multivariate modeling significant risk factors for death in the previous year from suspected lead poisoning included: the child's age, the mother performing ore-processing activities, community well as primary water source, and the soil-lead concentration in the compound. Conclusion: The high levels of environmental contamination, percentage of children aged <5 years with elevated blood-lead levels (97%, >45 µg/dL), and incidence of convulsions among children prior to death (82%) suggest that most of the recent childhood deaths in the two surveyed villages were caused by acute lead poisoning from gold ore-processing activities. Control measures included environmental remediation, chelation therapy, public health education, and control of mining activities

Publisher: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1289/ehp.1103965
OAI identifier:
Provided by: MSF Field Research

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