Lead contamination from hundreds of gold mines across northwestern Nigeria has caused the deaths of 400 children under the age of five and exposes thousands more children to lead poisoning, according to a report from the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch. Across the state of Zamfara, where hundreds of artisanal mines are now in operation, young children processing ore are exposed to toxic levels of lead, the report said. Many others are exposed when family members return home from work covered in the toxic dust, when lead-filled ore is crushed in their homes, or when exposed to contaminated water and food. In some villages, mortality rates were as high as 40 percent among children who showed signs of lead poisoning. “Zamfara’s gold brought hope for prosperity, but resulted in death and backbreaking labor for its children,” said Babatunde Olugboji, a deputy program director at Human Rights Watch. Healthcare workers also report high rates of infertility and miscarriage among adults in the region. While governmental and international organizations have treated more than 1,500 children showing signs of acute lead poisoning, the report says thousands more children require chelation therapy to remove lead from their bodies.
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