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Article Title: The Zamfara Lead Poisoning Episode in Nigeria: an Indication for Children’s Environmental Toxicology and Micronutrient Centre


Recent reports indicate that 1/3 of Africa’s disease burden is attributable to environmental hazards. Nigeria is clearly at the threshold of industrialization and one of the oldest known prices of industrialization is poisoning by various chemical agents. The diagnosis of chemical poisoning is poorly understood and often ignored in the developing countries in favour of the perceived more important infectious states. Lead poisoning is the oldest and one of the most well-known of the industrial (chemical) diseases. The recent Zamfara lead poisoning episode in Nigeria was a very severe case of lead toxicity in a community of illegal miners in two villages, Bukuyou and Anka in Zamfara State, Nigeria, which unleashed one of the most unprecedented outbreaks of lead poisoning in human history. The resultant mortality put at a conservative estimate of about 400 children within a very short period, aside from the morbidity, raises very serious concern. The health care delivery system in Nigeria could not offer any meaningful assistance in terms of adequate diagnostic capacity. This episode has revealed that the pace of industrialization and the level of preparedness of the nation’s health care system are disconnected. Instructively, the experience makes it a priority for the nation’s biomedical laboratory service to be repositioned or restructured to enable it detect most industrial diseases and toxic substances common in progressively industrializing nations. Toxicological service must be made a prominent arm of the service. Additionally, all known mining regions should be linked to centres providing toxicological investigations for surveillance. There is the need for a national survey of blood lead levels preferably combined with nutritional assessment as nutritional status may modify chemical toxicity and emphasis should be on children owing to the greater susceptibility this group. There is also the need to establish an agency to study various aspects of the toxic