LAGOS, Nigeria, Feb. 9 (UPI) — The hunt for gold in northern Nigeria has left 400 children dead of lead poisoning and many more ill in the past two years, a human rights organization says.
Human Rights Watch said in a release Tuesday thousands of Nigerian children need immediate medical treatment and dozens of villages are contaminated by pollution from artisanal gold mines throughout Zamfara state.
The organizations says children are exposed to lead dust when they process ore in the mines, when relatives return home from working in the mines covered with lead dust and when the lead-filled ore is manually or mechanically crushed at home. Children can also come in contact with lead in contaminated water and food.
Healthcare workers in Zamfara state say there also have been high rates of infertility and miscarriage among adults, the rights group said.
“Zamfara’s gold brought hope for prosperity, but resulted in death and backbreaking labor for its children,” said Babatunde Olugboji, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch. “People living in Zamfara state should not have to trade their lives, or their children’s lives, for the chance to mine gold and make a living.”
The group said more than 1,500 children have been treated for acute lead poisoning but thousands more have gone without the chelation therapy treatment that removes lead from the body.
Efforts to decontaminate the affected villages also have fallen short, Human Rights Watch said.