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A Perfect Storm in Nigeria
MRIC 2012/13

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"A Perfect Storm in Nigeria"

"A Perfect Storm in Nigeria: Drought, Gold, and Sharia Law Result in Childhood Deaths due to Lead Poisoning"

Ian von Lindern, Ph. D., PE
CEO, TerraGraphics Environmental Engineering, Inc .
Margrit von Braun, Ph.D., PE
Dean/Professor Emerita, University of Idaho

January 15
Whitewater Room, Idaho Commons- 12:30 p.m.

Abstract:A perfect storm of environmental, cultural and economic conditions precipitated an unprecedented epidemic of lead poisoning in Nigeria. Due to the soaring price of gold, subsistence farmers employing their wives and children in primitive artisanal mining could triple family income. However, prevailing Sharia practices required that the ore be brought into the home to crush and grind. The ore was often more than 10% lead, resulting in mass poisoning of more than 30,000 people and the deaths of 400-500 children.

Since 2010, Médecins Sans Frontières and TerraGraphics Environmental Engineering  have collaborated in cleanup and medical treatment, decreasing mortality rates from >30% to <2%. Daunting cultural, logistic, socio-economic challenges were encountered in adapting sophisticated engineering and medical protocols to remote locations with little resources or infrastructure.The cleanup involved more than 350 villagers, 80 local government personnel, and 28 international advisors, including 19 Idaho residents and 10 University of Idaho alumni and students.

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