A pilot program to introduce safer mining practices in Nigerian gold mining communities has reduced blood lead levels by 32% according to a study published today. This is the first study to report on a successful intervention to reduce lead exposures among artisanal miners in communities were hundreds of children have died from lead poisoning from the high levels of lead present in the gold ore.
“This is an extraordinary achievement demonstrating that it is possible to significantly reduce lead exposures among highly exposed informal miners with simple safer mining practices,” said Perry Gottesfeld, Executive Director of Occupational Knowledge International (OK International) whose organization partnered with Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in this effort.
“These results exceeded expectations and are comparable to what large scale lead-industries strive to achieve with millions of dollars in investment over multiple years,” Gottesfeld added.
The organizations involved demonstrated that working cooperatively with miners and the community could result in significant health improvements with a relatively small investment that would not impact the long-term economics of these mining operations. In addition to training thousands of miners, they worked to put in place hand washing stations, change areas, and separate eating areas to reduce exposures.
The safer mining project took place in the Shikira community in Niger State. A bore well was installed to provide wet spray misting to lower airborne lead levels at the ore processing site serving this community. The group reported earlier this year that that these control measures reduced airborne lead exposures by 95%.
Blood lead levels are considered the best measure of exposure. The organization tracked quarterly blood lead levels of a representative group of 58 miners over 19 months. The study also found that women miners had higher lead levels and experienced lower reductions than men (23% vs. 36%). The study “Declining blood lead levels among small-scale miners participating in a safer mining pilot programme in Nigeria” was published in the British Medical Journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Philip Aruna, Head of Mission in Nigeria for Doctors Without Borders said “We showed that by working cooperatively with the entire community we can bring significant reductions in lead exposures.”
Gottesfeld noted that, “Following our extensive outreach and training, the miners were motivated to take measures to reduce hazardous lead exposures and invested their own time and money to implement these protective measures.”
Lead causes severe neurological deficits and death among children in these communities, but even at low exposure levels is responsible for 674,000 deaths each year primarily due to cardiovascular disease. Investments in safer mining to reduce lead exposures would have a significant return on investment compared to the costs of treating severe lead poisoning in these communities.
There are an estimated 40 million informal small-scale miners working in at least 70 countries around the world. In addition to artisanal gold mining, informal lead mining accounts for an increasing share of the global lead supply.
Karla Bil, with Doctors Without Borders and an author of the study said that “Our pilot project demonstrated that safer mining practices are feasible, cost effective and can greatly improve health outcomes in mining communities impacted by severe lead poisoning.”
She added that “there is an immediate need for the Nigerian government to invest in safer mining practices throughout impacted communities in Northern Nigeria to apply these measures to improve health and reduce childhood lead poisoning.”
In addition to introducing wet methods, OK International focused on training miners to reduce community exposures by implementing simple measures including handwashing, showering, setting up separate eating areas, and changing out of work clothing before going home at the end of the day. The overall cost for capital improvements for this community was approximately $5,000.
Every year, 1.9 million people die from tobacco-induced heart disease – Report
• tobacco responsible for 20% of deaths from coronary heart disease
Every year, 1.9 million people die from tobacco-induced heart disease, according to a new brief released on Tuesday by the World Health Organization, World Heart Federation and the University of Newcastle Australia ahead of World Heart Day, marked on 29 September.
This equates to one in five of all deaths from heart disease, warn the report’s authors, who urge all tobacco users to quit and avoid a heart attack, stressing that smokers are more likely to experience an acute cardiovascular event at a younger age than non-smokers.
Just a few cigarettes a day, occasional smoking, or exposure to second-hand smoke increase the risk of heart disease. But if tobacco users take immediate action and quit, then their risk of heart disease will decrease by 50% after one year of not smoking.
“Given the current level of evidence on tobacco and cardiovascular health and the health benefits of quitting smoking, failing to offer cessation services to patients with heart disease could be considered clinical malpractice or negligence. Cardiology societies should train their members in smoking cessation, as well as to promote and even drive tobacco control advocacy efforts,” said Dr Eduardo Bianco, Chair of the World Heart Federation Tobacco Expert Group.
The brief also shows that smokeless tobacco is responsible for around 200 000 deaths from coronary heart disease per year. E-cigarettes also raise blood pressure increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Moreover, high blood pressure and heart disease increase the risk of severe COVID-19. A recent WHO survey found that among people dying of COVID-19 in Italy, 67% had high blood pressure and in Spain, 43% of people who developed COVID-19 were living with heart disease.
“Governments have a responsibility to protect the health of their people and help reverse the tobacco epidemic. Making our communities smoke-free reduces the number of tobacco-related hospital admissions, which is more important than ever in the context of the current pandemic,” said Dr Vinayak Prasad, Unit Lead of the WHO No Tobacco Unit.
Tobacco control is a key element for reducing heart disease. Governments can help tobacco users quit by increasing tax on tobacco products, enforcing bans on tobacco advertising and offering services to help people give up tobacco.
COVID-19: Lagos health commissioner, Abayomi tests positive
The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, has tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Gbenga Omotoso, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, disclosed this in a statement issued on Monday.
The statement also added that Abayomi had close contact with persons feeling unwell who tested positive for COVID-19.
“Subsequent to close contact with persons feeling unwell and testing positive for the COVID-19 infection, the Honorable Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, has tested positive for the virus.
“Professor Abayomi became aware of his status following the required testing protocol of contact tracing procedures,” the statement partly read.
The commissioner who had no symptoms of the virus, is adhering to the protocol of home-based strategy in the state.
While embarking on self-isolation for the next 14 days, he will still continue to discharge his duties both as the Deputy Incident Commander of the Incident Command System for COVID-19 and as the Commissioner for Health.
Meanwhile, members of the State Executive Council wish him a speedy recovery during the period.
COVID-19: Imo govt. launches innovative mobile health insurance with support from WHO
The Governor of Imo State, Mr. Hope Uzodinma last Wednesday launched the innovative Mobile Health Insurance Programme in Owerri.
This mobile health insurance initiative has been designed with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) to achieve seamless coverage of the over 96% population in the informal sector of the State on health insurance while reducing the existing out-of-pocket expenditure of 92%. The mobile platforms in addition, provide automated opportunities for philanthropists to graciously adopt the poor and vulnerable on health insurance.
In his remarks, the Governor appreciated the leadership role of WHO in the health sector of the state and globally especially in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. He added that the state government depends strongly on the genuine and constructive partnership of the World Health Organization towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
Governor Uzodinma added that WHO supported the state, with the design and flag-off of the Health Insurance Scheme, which now culminates in the launch of the use of mobile phone technology to pay for and access Health Insurance, the first of its kind in Africa towards ensuring that people can get quality health services, where and when they need them, without suffering financial hardship.
He restated his commitment to repositioning the entire Health Sector in the State, while requesting WHOs renewed partnership in “PHC revitalization, full implementation of the State Health Insurance scheme to provide access to essential Healthcare to Imo citizens at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of care, revamping of our Health Security, Emergency preparedness and response, and overhaul of the drug revolving scheme to eliminate the issue of fake or substandard drugs in our hospitals.”
Speaking at the event, the WHO Nigeria Representative, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo appreciated the government of Imo State for placing the health of her people high on overall agenda of government. While recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the vulnerabilities of the global health systems, he pledged WHO’s continuous support within the 13 General Program of work and the State Health Strategic Development Plan.
Dr Mulmbo said that WHO recognizes the peculiar needs of each population from others and thus, makes deliberate efforts to fashion out the health system that works for them based on their needs.
He appreciated the level of political commitment to health in the State and expressed confidence that if sustained, the State and WHO will together promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable.
WHO already supported the State with core health financing analytics with development and printing of the State Health Financing Policy and Strategy, operational guidelines of the State Health Insurance Scheme key operational documents for the State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, as well as laptop computers, some of which were presented during the event.
The high point of the event was the conferment of the title of “Oche Ndu 1 (protector and preserver of life) of Imo State” on Dr. Kazadi on behalf of WHO, by the Chairman of Imo State Traditional Rulers, in recognition of all the lives that have been saved through the humanitarian work done by WHO in the State.
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