Jul 21, 2019 | Updated: 08:54 AM EDT

Kabwe, Zambia: The Most Toxic Town In The World? Residents Reported To Suffer From Lead Poisoning

May 29, 2017 03:31 AM EDT

File photo of mining
(Photo : Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Because of a century of lead mining and smelting activities, the once-thriving town of Kabwe, Zambia was left with a toxic legacy that would cause harm in current and future generations. There may be activities in cleaning up the mess of the town but dangers are still present as poor people scavenge slag heap.

In a feature article published in The Guardian, Kabwe is described as the "world's most toxic town, according to pollution experts". The article also reported that there is mass lead poisoning that has certainly damaged the brains and other organs of people living in the town 100km north of the country's capital Lusaka.

"Having been to probably 20 toxic hotspots throughout the world, and seeing mercury, chromium and many contaminated lead sites, [I can say] the scale in Kabwe is unprecedented and there are thousands of people affected here, not hundreds as in other places," Prof. Jack Caranavos said. He is an environmental health expert at New York University and it is his fourth visit to the town.

The 22,000 people-populated town located in central Africa's Copperbelt does not only have problems with the ongoing mining activities. Kabwe also sees their people scavenging the vast slag heap located in a place known as Black Mountain.

The remaining dusty soil in the surrounding area from the closed giant state-owned smelter contains extreme levels of lead. Children, especially infants of Kabwe are the most vulnerable in this scenario as the metal on these soils are being swallowed through their hands infected with a potent neurotoxin that they got from playing outside.

Annie Kabwe, a mother who lives in the town, noticed that her children are getting stomach pains, fevers, and weight loss. She first thought that it was HIV but the tests went negative. After some tests, it was revealed that her children contain high levels of lead.

In an article published in Equal Times, Kabwe profited from the mining industries for decades but it is not transparent to its citizens. The "poisoned profits" are not only affecting the air but also the people and the quality of their lives.

It is not only their health that is affected by the leads found in Kabwe but also their education. "The problem is they are not really learning well in school, so the lead is still affecting them," she said.

The problems of lead poisoning and other side effects brought by mining activities in Kabwe is considered as a sensitive issue. Several organizations refuse to speak about it while the data gathered by the government is not open to the public.

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