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Poisoning the Earth and our health

Updated: 2016-05-17 13:38
By Nestor Batio Bassiere (chinadaily.com.cn)

Poisoning the Earth and our health

Workers at the Ziga-II water project, about 30 kilometers from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, April 14, 2016.[Photo/Xinhua]

Why the world must find an antidote tothe deadly menace of lead acid batteries

When animals began to die in a neighbourhood of an African city not far from Burkina Faso, no one knew why. Then children began to die too. Mothers gave birth to stillborn children and toddlers stopped talking.

Some said that the victims of the mysterious illness lived in homes that had been cursed. Others said the families themselves were cursed.

But when doctors ran tests on the 18 dead children, they discovered the truth: that the children – all under the age of five – had been poisoned to death by lead.

For years, the uncontrolled recycling of car batteries had allowed large quantities of lead to seep silently into the ground, poisoning the earth around people's homes.

When the price of lead sky-rocketed over a five-year period, residents began to dig up the soil to collect the valuable metal, whipping up deadly dust clouds that sent tiny particles of lead into the air.

Lead is a toxic substance that accumulates in organisms and negatively impacts bodily functions. It is particularly damaging to young children.

WHO has identified lead as one of ten chemicals of major public health concern, needing action by Member States to protect the health of workers, children and women of reproductive age.

If inhaled or ingested, the tiny lead particles can kill – roughly 143,000 people die from lead poisoning every year.

Once lead enters the body, it can spread to the brain, kidneys and liver. It can build up over time in the teeth and bones, reaching increasingly dangerous levels.

But even low levels of lead leave behind horrendous scars that last a lifetime, especially for children whose futures can be destroyed by speech problems, learning difficulties, brain damage, anaemia and anti-social behaviour.

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