Understanding Kabwe's lead pollution




Chilongo, Owen Chasoba

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To understand why Kabwe, Zambia is one of the most lead polluted towns, one has to look at the source of this pollution and its extent. With a history of poor environmental regulation, policies, and public information, the lead pollution caused by mining activities in Kabwe went unmitigated for decades. The natural blood-lead level in humans is about 0.0016 µg/dl, in developed countries like the United States, strict enforcement has resulted into lead levels averaging figures below 10 µg/dl, but in Kabwe, averages lie between 60 µg/dl and 120 µg/dl. Levels over 10 µg/dl are unhealthy, while levels above 20 µg/dl can cause acute poisoning whereas levels over 120 µg/dl often result into death. New environmental and rehabilitation laws were only enacted after a new administration came into office in 1991; however, additional mitigation measures such as obtaining a reclamation bond prior to being issued a mining permit need to be considered.



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