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Health risk after lead plant reopens

Wednesday February 3 2010

By ANTHONY KITIMO

Residents of Owino Huru in Mikindani, Mombasa have raised concern over the increasing cases of diseases suspected to be linked to a lead smelting factory that was recently reopened.

The residents have accused public health officials of not taking action against the factory which they accuse of polluting the environment.

Many people, mostly children have been diagnosed with various diseases associated with the toxic fumes from Metal Refinery EPZ Ltd factory.

In a report obtained by the Nation, and signed by a government chemist official, Mr George Kakuta, several children aged below 15 years have been found to be suffering from lead poisoning.

Some of the medical reports indicate one of the children was found with 23 micrograms per decilitre (mcg/dL) of lead in his blood, which is 13 mcg/dL more than the required lead content.

Area chief Nassir Kipepembe confirmed in the report that the children affected live near the factory. Mr Jackson Oseya, a resident, said since the factory was opened three years ago, he has been suffering from chest diseases and abdominal pains.

Green Belt Movement officer Njoroge Karanja said his organisation would hire a lawyer to help residents seek legal redress and to ensure the factory paid medical expenses for all the affected children.

Factory director Irshad Sumra had earlier said the factory had complied with health regulations and blamed business rivals for inciting the residents to tarnish his company’s name.

National Environment Management Authority director of compliance, Coast region, Mr Martin Shimba said they were still investigating the claims by residents.