Lead poisoning has killed 28 people in some villages in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State, the Federal Government announced yesterday.
According to the Minister of State for Health, Fidelis Nwankwo, who briefed newsmen over the incident in Abuja yesterday, most of those affected were children below five years. He explained that a technical team confirmed the outbreak of lead poisoning in the area.
Nwankwo linked the outbreak to some new-found illegal mining sites, which contained more leaded ores but were often brought home for crushing and processing.
About 65 cases have so far been recorded in the affected areas, but there were signs that it could spread to neighbouring localities in the area and Kaduna State.
Nwankwo said, however, that the poison was not contagious if the people were amenable to control and observe safer and healthier practices.
He explained that the essence of the briefing was to raise awareness and solicit for the cooperation of the people.
“The rapid assessment by the National Centre for Disease Control and the federal and state ministries of health revealed that as at May 12, 65 cases and 28 deaths had occurred, giving a case fatality rate of 43 percent.
“All the 28 cases were children below the age of five, made up of 17 females and 11 males.
“Additionally, the finding revealed a serious impact on our livestock with cows, goats and chicken most affected.
“The purpose of this press briefing is to inform the press and fellow Nigerians of an outbreak of lead poisoning in some villages of Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State.
“And it is currently spreading to neighbouring localities in the state and Kaduna state.
“The affected children were found to have serum lead levels of about between 17 to 22 times higher than the acceptable limits established by the World Health Organization, WHO.”
The minister, however, the government is working on curbing the outbreak and has started treatment of the children affected.