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Senegal lead poisoning, africa lead poisoning, lead poisoning in africa
Rebecca Blackwell/AP
Local residents use railroad tracks to cross a heavily flooded area where car battery recycling
was done until neighborhood children started dying of
lead poisoning, in Thiaroye Sur Mer,
Senegal (AP)

Lingering Lead Holds Back Developing Countries

January 08, 2009 10:58 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
Senegal’s lead poisoning epidemic is indicative of a problem found throughout the underdeveloped world, yet wealthier nations have not been immune.

A Developing Problem

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The deaths of 18 children from lead poisoning in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, is a tragic example of globalization’s impact on the developing world. According to MSNBC, the root of the problem is the demand for cars in China and India, and the subsequent demand for lead-based batteries. Senegal’s soil “is laced with lead left over from years of extracting it from old car batteries,” and residents have “started digging up the earth to get at it.”

“There’s not a developing country where this isn’t happening,” Perry Gottesfeld, of OK International, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing the exposure to pollutants, told MSNBC. According to IRIN News, environmental problems like lead contamination cause “up to 20 percent of deaths in developing countries.”

Zambia, for example, once had Africa’s biggest lead mine in the city of Kabwe. Mining continued into the early 1990s, leaving the city with contaminated soil and water. Richard Fuller of the Blacksmith Institute, which monitors pollution in the developing world, told IRIN News, “the worst problem is the damage they (environmental pollutants) do to children’s development, and that damages the future of the countries.”

In La Oroya, Peru, the operations of American metal-smelter Doe Run have left nearly all of the area’s children with “unacceptably high levels of lead in their bodies,” according to Earth Justice. The United States has imposed a fine on Doe Run for violating Peruvian environmental laws, and the company recently “lost its Environmental Certification,” but its poisonous legacy remains.

The industrialized world is not immune from the damaging impacts of lead. Galway City, Ireland, is dealing with a lead contamination crisis due to lead piping “in homes and business premises built before 1970,” reports the Irish Independent. Residents “have been told not to use the water for drinking or food preparation.”

Background: Lead and lead poisoning

Related Topics: Toxic spills in the Amazon and Tennessee

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