ABUBAKAR JIMOH

It is no more news that the emergence of lead poison in the last few years has led to the death of hundreds, especially the young ones across the country.

The dreadful infection called ‘lead poison’ has been described as a naturally occurring metal found in deposits of ores, containing elements commonly used as a solder in home plumbing systems and in water service pipes designed to transport water from municipal water into homes.

A recent investigation conducted by the Youths Against Disaster Initiative (YADI) revealed that the interference of lead with a variety of body processes is poisonous to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, and reproductive and nervous systems; notably among children. This results to potential permanent learning and behavior disorders, convulsion, paralysis and even death.

Similarly, a study conducted by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in collaboration with national and international stakeholders on epidemics control confirmed that lead poison arises from such human daily activities such as placing lead objects or fingers in mouth after handling lead, breathing dust that contains lead, solder used in plumbing, dust and chips from deteriorating lead paint on interior surfaces, old/imported toys or furniture, curtain weights, pottery, porcelain, leaded glass, and hobby materials, contaminated breast milk, among others.

It is noteworthy that a bid to tackle the deadly epidemic resulted to NEMA partnership with both national and international stakeholders primarily to sensitize the general public on the preventive measures against the impacts of lead poison.

Consequently, National Workshop on the Mitigation of the Risk of Lead Poisoning Associated with Gold Mining and Processing among Rural Communities was held in Zamfara State in March 2011. In his key note address at the Workshop, the Director General NEMA, Alhaji Muhammad Sani-Sidi warned against the ongoing excessive and unjust mining activities among rural communities in Nigeria and the need for constant Environmental Impact Assessment by the state governments.

His words: “War against lead poison can be won through effective environmental management, land use planning and strict compliance to occupational safety and industrial regulations, as the society exploited its natural resources to sustain livelihood.”

In its further examination, YADI noted that laboratory analysis of the blood lead level is the main tool in diagnosing and assessing the severity of lead poisoning. Medical screening is conducted to test the blood level of the affected persons and their vulnerability to lead.

More importantly, parents must ensure personal hygiene not only for themselves, but also their children through frequent hand washing, and discourage them from putting their hands in mouth. They should also increase their intake of calcium and iron.

While households are advised on the regular practice of running water in the morning to flush out the most contaminated water, or adjusting the water’s chemistry to prevent corrosion of pipes. They should also use only cold water from the tap for drinking, cooking, and for making baby formula. It has been argued that hot water is more likely to contain higher amounts of lead.

On their own parts, health professionals have called on individuals to lower childhood exposures to lead; while urging the government to strengthen the environmental regulations that limit the amount of lead in soil, water, air, household dust, and products.

Also, there is need for the adequate review and full implementation of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) Act of 1988 in addition to the existing administrative mandates of the National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administrative Control (NAFDAC), National Environmental Standards and Regulation Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to help in achieving effectiveness in control and proper environmental management as well as maintaining adequate check on both local and imported commodities.

Precaution is always better than cure! Regularly wash children’s hands and toys which can become contaminated from household dust or exterior soil. Prevent children from playing in bare soil, constantly wet-mop floors, and wet-wipe window components as household dust is a major source of lead. If possible, provide them with sandboxes.

In the lead-prone environment, individuals should create barriers between living areas and lead sources. Governments of the affected communities should institute a sufficient clean-up programme. All sources of lead must be isolated until the completion of the environmental clean-up. To protect children living in the zones, parents should create temporary barriers such as contact paper or duct tape to cover holes in walls or to block children’s access to other sources of lead.

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