Of the many cleanups we conducted in 2015, our work in Kabwe, Zambia, was one of the highlights. Last year, thanks to private donations from supporters, Pure Earth’s team was able to return to Kabwe to start cleaning up one of the “World’s Worst Polluted Places.” As a result, some of the residents of Chowa, a neighborhood of Kabwe, are now finally free from dangerous lead exposure in their homes and yards for the first time in 100 years! Chowa is so contaminated that almost every child there suffers from from lead poisoning–an unfortunate legacy of nearly a century of mining activity.
Ten years ago, Pure Earth helped bring attention to the severe lead poisoning in Kabwe, resulting in a major intervention from the World Bank. In 2014, we went back to check on the progress, and were saddened and shocked at what we found.
We tested blood lead levels of 196 children aged two to eight years and found that 26.5% of the children recorded blood lead levels higher than 65.0 µg/dL. The reference level at which the CDC recommends public health actions be initiated is 5 µg/dL.
We deployed a project team, partnered with the Kabwe City Council, designed a pilot intervention and got to work.
After just three months of remediation efforts, carried out by Chowa residents trained by our team, we managed to decontaminate 80 homes and yards by December 2015.
But more remediation is needed. Pure Earth has been working with the World Bank to insist on more help for Kabwe. Recently, the World Bank announced that they were releasing US$40 million to help mitigate the impact of lead poisoning in Zambia.
During this round of funding, Pure Earth will stay closely involved to provide oversight and ensure that remediation efforts are focused on reducing the threat to human health and protecting children.