Lead poisoning epidemics

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Automobile batteries being recycled at Thiaroye Sur Mer. Site where 18 children died of lead poisoning in 2008.

Lead poisoning epidemics refer to instances of mass lead poisoning, and usually occur unintentionally in low income countries. Lead recycling is a common cause of a poisoning epidemic, and it is commonplace and sometimes the only means of providing sustenance in poorer countries. The lack of immediate and obvious health effects often result in people taking excessive risks and few precautions when handling lead. These events can also cause disproportionate childhood fatalities, when levels of toxins become fatal in lower concentrations in children compared with adults.

Notable poisoning events

This list does not include episodes of fewer that 100 people affected, nor does it include individual lead paint poisoning cases, nor those caused by eating contaminated food or water. The cases below are discrete events of mass lead poisonings.

Large Scale Lead Poisoning Events
Name of Event Year Region Country City # Tested high* # deaths Source of Lead Exposure References Comments
Dong Mai 2015 SE Asia Vietnam Dong Mai 102 0 Auto Battery Recycling ref[1] ongoing
El Paso/Juarez 1974 N.Amer USA/Mexico El Paso, Texas 391 0 Lead Smelter ref[2] plant closed
Fiengxiang 2009 Asia China Shanxi 615 0 Lead Smelter ref[3] comment
Hunan 2008 Asia China Hunan 1354 0 Manganese Factory ref[4] comment
Jiyuan ? Asia China Jiyuan 1000 0 Lead Smelter ref[5] 99.7% of children poisoned
Doe Run 2004 S.Amer Peru La Oroya 100's 0 Lead Smelter ref[6] plant closed
Michoacan 2009? C.Amer Mexico Michoacan 311 0 Lead glazed Pottery ref[7] ongoing
Santo Amaro 1985 S.Amer Brazil Bahia 555 0 Lead Smelter ref[8] comment
Thiaroye Sur Mer 2008 Africa Senegal Dakar 150+ 18 Auto Battery Recycling ref[9] closed
Torreon 2000 C.Amer Mexico Torreon 11181 0 Lead Smelter ref[10] comment
Zamfara 2010 Africa Nigeria Zamfara 1000+ 163-400 Lead mining / ASGM ref[11] ongoing
Kabwe 2013 Africa Zambia Kabwe 1000+ 0 Lead mining and smelter ref[12][13] comment
  • number tested high is defined as a blood lead level greater than or equal to 10 micrograms per deciliter whole blood (ug/dl)

See also


  1. Daniell, William E.; Tung, Lo Van; Wallace, Ryan M.; Havens, Deborah J.; Karr, Catherine J.; Diep, Nguyen Bich; Croteau, Gerry A.; Beaudet, Nancy J.; Bao, Nguyen Duy (2015-10-26). "Childhood Lead Exposure from Battery Recycling in Vietnam". BioMed Research International. 2015: 193715. doi:10.1155/2015/193715. PMC 4637436. PMID 26587532.
  2. Ordóñez, Blanca Raquel; Romero, Lidia Ruiz; Mora, Refugio (2003). "Investigación epidemiológica sobre niveles de plomo en la población infantil y en el medio ambiente domiciliario de Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, en relación con una fundición de El Paso, Texas". Salud Pública de México. 45: 281–295. doi:10.1590/S0036-36342003000800015. ISSN 0036-3634.
  3. Watts, Jonathan; Cui, Zheng (2009-08-17). "Chinese villagers storm factory blamed for lead poisoning of 600 children". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 2016-03-01. Retrieved 2016-02-19.
  4. Watts, Jonathan; correspondent, Asia environment (2009-08-20). "1,300 Chinese children near smelter suffer lead poisoning". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 2016-03-01. Retrieved 2016-02-19.
  5. "China to move residents from lead smelter base-report". Reuters. 2009-10-19. Archived from the original on 2016-02-24. Retrieved 2016-02-19.
  6. Fraser, Barbara (2009-07-01). "La Oroya's Legacy of Lead". Environmental Science & Technology. 43 (15): 5555–5557. doi:10.1021/es901734g.
  7. Fernandez, G. O.; Martinez, R. R.; Fortoul, T. I.; Palazuelos, E. (1997-02-01). "High blood lead levels in ceramic folk art workers in Michoacan, Mexico". Archives of Environmental Health. 52 (1): 51–55. doi:10.1080/00039899709603800. ISSN 0003-9896. PMID 9039858.
  8. Lalor, G. C.; Vutchkov, M. K.; Bryan, S. T.; Christie, C. D. C.; Donaldson, D.; Young, J.; Chambers, S. (2006-12-01). "Acute lead poisoning associated with backyard lead smelting in Jamaica". The West Indian Medical Journal. 55 (6): 394–398. doi:10.1590/s0043-31442006000600005. ISSN 0043-3144. PMID 17691233.
  9. Jones, Donald E.; Diop, Assane; Block, Meredith; Smith-Jones, Alexander; Smith-Jones, Andrea (2011). "Assessment and Remediation of Lead Contamination in Senegal". Journal of Health and Pollution. 1 (2): 37–47. doi:10.5696/2156-9614.1.2.37.
  10. US Centers for Disease Control (203). "Blood Lead Levels and Risk Factors for Lead Poisoning Among Children in Torreón, Coahuila, Mexico" (PDF). United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Environmental Health, Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch/Health Studies Branch.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. "WHO | Nigeria: mass lead poisoning from mining activities, Zamfara State". www.who.int. Archived from the original on July 8, 2010. Retrieved 2016-02-19.
  12. Yabe, John; Nakayama, Shouta M. M.; Ikenaka, Yoshinori; Yohannes, Yared B.; Bortey-Sam, Nesta; Oroszlany, Balazs; Muzandu, Kaampwe; Choongo, Kennedy; Kabalo, Abel Nketani (2015-01-01). "Lead poisoning in children from townships in the vicinity of a lead–zinc mine in Kabwe, Zambia". Chemosphere. 119: 941–947. doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.09.028. hdl:2115/58817. PMID 25303652.
  13. "Notes from the Field: Severe Environmental Contamination and Elevated Blood Lead Levels Among Children — Zambia, 2014". www.cdc.gov. Archived from the original on 2016-03-02. Retrieved 2016-02-19.