Notes From The Field: Walking A Day To Seek Change In Kabwe

Joe and man Kabwe

The man with Joe Hayes in Chowa

Joe Hayes, a hydrogeologist from the US, is a volunteer member of Pure Earth’s technical advisory board. Joe just returned from Kabwe, Zambia where he is helping to manage the cleanup of the lead-contaminated neighborhood of Chowa.

“People in Kabwe are very friendly, and everyone speaks English so it’s very easy to come here start interacting with local people. Because people here have suffered for so long, they aren’t quick to get their hopes up,” Joe explained.

But this project is having a major impact. Everyone is aware of it, and they are happy to be directly involved.

This grandfather, a man in his 50’s and a leader in the neighboring community, walked an entire day to speak with Joe during the cleanup of Chowa. He came all that way to thank Joe for the work he is doing, and to tell him of the years of suffering his family and community have endured from lead exposure. He told Joe harrowing stories of child deaths, including some of his own children, by two years of age. In fact, surviving to two years is an important milestone in Kabwe, as many children do not make it. He’s seen many other children and adults suffer for years from debilitating diseases related to lead poisoning.

Joe and his fellow technical advisers, Gordon Binkhorst and John Keith, have been instrumental in assisting Pure Earth staff in training 35 community members to remediate 80 homes and yards in the Chowa neighborhood of Kabwe.

After just 3 months, they completed the initial phase of the cleanup marking the first time in nearly 100 years that 80 Chowa families are living without daily, direct lead poisoning.

But this grandfather, his family, and thousands more throughout Kabwe are waiting to get the training and materials to decontaminate their own homes and help themselves be free of this scourge.

You can help:

Your support can help expand this project to more communities throughout Kabwe. Donate now.


In July 2014, a Pure Earth team tested blood lead levels of 196 children in Kabwe aged between two and eight years of age.’

  • The mean blood lead level (BLL) was 48.3 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) of whole blood
  • The lowest BLL measured was 13.6 µg/dL
  • The upper BLL detected by the testing system was 65.0 µg/dL
  • 52 (26.5%) readings exceeded the limit of the detection equipment we had in the field.
  • The upper value for the CDC reference range for BLLs in children is 5 µg/dL

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