Kabwe is the fourth largest city in Zambia, with a population of more than 200,000 people and is located 130 km north of the nation’s capital, Lusaka. It is situated adjacent to the “Copperbelt”, which was once Zambia’s thriving industrial base. Lead mining and smelting operations were run almost continuously for over 90 years without adequately addressing the potential dangers of lead. These smelters released heavy metals in the form of dust particles, which settled on the ground in the surrounding areas.
While the mine is currently closed, artisanal activity at tailing piles continues. These operations left a life-threatening legacy of lead-contaminated dust that pollutes the community’s soil and water. Kabwe has the most severe lead contamination of any site Pure Earth has seen during its 20 years cleaning up toxic pollution.
100% of the 90,000 children under age 14 have elevated blood lead levels.
In 2014, Pure Earth conducted a comprehensive environmental assessment in Kabwe in order to understand where the persisting lead hotspots are within the community and to identify relevant exposure pathways. Based on that assessment, Pure Earth developed a plan to conduct targeted pilot interventions, including blood lead level testing and clean up efforts, starting with the most severely contaminated neighborhoods and prioritizing children’s health and safety.
- Environment Africa
- Kabwe Municipal Council
- World Bank
- Terre des Hommes
- Marilyn S. Broad Foundation
- Foundation Beyond Belief
- Kabwe Pilot Lead Remediation Project (2016)
- Kabwe Lead Smelter Cleanup (2014)
- Contamination of the Kafue River Basin (2006)
- Projects in Progress:
- Completed Projects:
Read more about our work in the Zambia at the Pollution Blog
- In Kabwe with The Guardian (2017)
- Protecting Children by Cleaning Up Lead-Contaminated Yards (2016)
- What do Flint, Michigan and Kabwe, Zambia Have in Common? (2016)
- Walking to Seek Change in Kabwe (2015)
- Lead in Kabwe’s Children (2014)
- Kabwe’s Children’s Silent Struggles (2014)