High levels of lead pollution in Ashaiman worrying


A new study has identified Ashaiman, one of the largest urban suburbs in the Greater Accra Region with over 200,000 people, as a highly lead-polluted area in the country.

Sources of lead pollution include waste incinerators, lead-acid batteries, and ore and metal processing. Its pollution affects the nervous system, kidney function, immune system, reproductive and developmental systems, and the cardiovascular system. Exposure to lead – a metal – also affects the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.

The study – conducted by an international environmental advocacy group, Pure Earth and the Ghana Health Service – took blood samples of some residents in the area. The researchers also examined some frequently used household items, like cooking utensils, to measure contamination from lead; but it described the findings as worrying.

“Over the past years, we have been working with the Ghana Health Service and have completed site assessments under the Protecting Every Child’s Potential (PECP) initiative at 42 priority contaminated sites in Ghana, including Ashaiman. This work that we have done has now shown some light on the lead poisoning situation in Ghana. This gives us evidence to tackle the problem head-on,” said Esmond Quansah, Country Director of Pure Earth.

A busy enclave with several light industries, Ashaiman is a bustling area that is home to activities, such as wire burning, battery repairs, and other metallic-related works.

“When a child is exposed to lead, the consequences are dire. It harms a child’s health in many ways, including damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behaviour problems, hearing and speech problems,” said Mr. Quansah at an event to announce the study’s findings in Accra.

Pure Earth noted that one out of three children across the world, particularly in low-income countries like Ghana, are exposed to toxic levels of lead, and over 1.7 million children are estimated to have blood lead levels exceeding five micrograms per decilitre in Ghana. He acknowledged that this is a result of low awareness of lead poisoning among Ghanaians.

Speaking at the same event, Wilson Baaku, who is the Technical Project Director for Pure Earth in Ghana, stated that Ashaiman is one of the communities having issues with sanitation, adding that: “We found lead samples on all the items that we tested here.”

“During the investigation, we took samples from people’s living places, especially where children live and play. And what came out after the investigation was the issue of lead contamination – we had a content of lead in the dust, in rubber mats, and in eyeliners,” he added.

Elliet Atsu-Mansamaga, who works with the Ghana Health Service in Ashaiman, in an interview with the B&FT, explained that the current levels of lead poisoning have alerted medical practitioners to be on the lookout for the symptoms. According to her, if treatment does not produce results, further laboratory tests are done.

“The samples that were picked from some homes in Ashaiman for the test really helped. The paints in our rooms have lead content so when children come to the hospital, some of these follow-ups are done to treat those with symptoms, especially if you are coming from communities like Ashaiman,” she added.

About Pure Earth

Pure Earth was established in 1999, and is a pioneer in developing evidence-based solutions to lead and mercury pollution and exposure. Guided by their commitment to transparency, collaboration, impact measurement and technical excellence, Pure Earth works with partners around the world to sustainably address the root causes of lead and mercury pollution.

Pure Earth aims at creating a world where everyone, especially children, can live a healthy life and realise their full potential without being exposed to harmful pollutants. In order to find and put into practice solutions that stop harmful exposures, safeguard health, and restore habitats, Pure Earth collaborates with governments, communities and industry leaders.

Compared to the other Top Ten Chemicals of Concern recognised by the WHO, lead and mercury are two of the most common contaminants in low- and middle-income nations, and present a bigger danger. Due to their broad exposure, both toxicants have a profound effect on society’s development, leading to cardiovascular illness in adults, IQ loss, disability, increased aggression, and mortality.

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