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A TEAM of South African and United Kingdom-based lawyers are in the process of suing Anglo American South Africa on behalf of Kabwe residents over alleged lead poisoning.

Johannesburg lawyer Mbuyisa Moleele is working with Leigh Day, a UK-based human rights lawyer.

The legal practitioners say activities at Anglo’s Kabwe lead mine, which operated from 1915 to 1994, were responsible for lead poisoning of tens of thousands of Kabwe residents.

“Very high levels of lead has been detected in the blood of “a substantial proportion of the local population,” the lawyers say.

And the author of the report on a Lead Contamination on Children’s Rights in Kabwe Joanna Naples-Mitchell said children living in Kabwe were still exposed to high levels of toxic lead 25 years after mining ended in the town.

Ms Naples-Mitchell said 95 percent of children in the townships surrounding the lead mine had elevated blood lead levels and that about half of them required medical attention.

She said the study done in 2018 showed that levels of lead had been as high as they had been in the 1970s.

“Some 76,000 people, or a third of the town’s population, still live in contaminated areas,” Ms Naples-Mitchell said.

The 88-page report titled ‘We Have to Be Worried: The Impact of Lead Contamination on Children’s Rights in Kabwe, Zambia’ examines the effects of lead contamination in Kabwe on children’s rights to health, a healthy environment, education and play.

Kabwe is known as one of the world’s most polluted places from decades of mining, with serious health implications for residents.

Ms Naples-Mitchell says Kabwe still has extreme levels of lead contamination and children continue to be exposed to high levels of the toxic mineral in soil and dust around their homes, schools and play areas.

“The Zambian government is aware that Kabwe has been severely contaminated … since the 1990s and efforts to clean up have been inadequate,” she says.

“This is a public health emergency and the government is not responding with the sense of urgency that is warranted.”

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