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29 children found to have high lead levels

Friday May 08 2015

Twenty-nine children from a Mombasa slum have been found to have high levels of lead in their blood.

The children from Owino Uhuru were tested by government doctors, who presented the results to the slum’s residents yesterday.

Dr Nancy Akoit Etiang, a lead investigator from the Department of Disease Prevention and Control, said out of 95 children in the slum, 30 per cent were affected.

“They have been found with lead levels above 10 per cent, which is the World Health Organisation threshold,” she said. “Nobody should have lead levels above that.”

Dr Etiang said the children would not undergo chelation therapy — a medical process of removing heavy metals from the blood — but would be counselled instead.

“The results indicate that even where we are stepping is contaminated; the dust and soil also have lead,” said Dr Jackson Kioko, the Director of Preventive and Promotive Health Services.

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“Parents should know the children are being exposed when they play on the ground.” He said the government would support families of the affected children to have them treated. He said health officials would investigate the source of the lead contamination in the slum to ascertain whether it was a result of a nearby shut battery recycling factory.

County director of medical services Shem Patta said a lasting solution to the problem was being sought.

The health team also visited the factory and took samples of trees that withered months after the factory started working.  Mr George Kakuta, a government chemist scientist, said parts of the dead tree would be tested. “The water that the residents drink will also be analysed.”

Previously, county health executive Binti Omar said the county government’s tests by showed that 15 people had high levels of lead in their blood.

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