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The silent neglect of Lead Poisoning in Old buildings with peeling paints

I recently had a very chilling unusual conversation with a colleague whom we were neighbors as young doctors living in the doctors flats.

He shared with me his current predicament of poor performance in school and behavioral challenges of his first two children.He intimated to me that after extensive personal research he came to the conclusion after blood test that his children might be victims of lead poisoning.

We recalled vividly the old paint on the staircase that used to peel off and there was always dusty particles of paint and dust on the staircase that we would complain about.

Samples of the dust had since been collected and tested and found to be very high in Lead. And that was the source of poisoning.

Now you know why this conversation was chilling to me. Many families of doctors still live in those blocks. And nothing has changed.

The consequences of brain injury from exposure to lead in early life are loss of intelligence, shortening of attention span and disruption of behavior. Because the human brain has little capacity for repair, these effects are untreatable and irreversible. They cause diminution in brain function and reduction in achievement that last throughout life.

Recent research indicates that lead is associated with neuro-behavioral damage at blood levels of 5 μg/dl and even lower. There appears to be no threshold level below which lead causes no injury to the developing human brain.

So, Lead poisoning the silent killer of dreams has set many children on a potential path to failure before they've even finished kindergarten.

It's a path that experts say helps to perpetuate two of Africa's most pressing and bedeviling problems: poor school performance and violence.

The problem isn't a new one. We've known about it for decades.

Our children have been poisoned from our doctor’s quarters, and it's entirely preventable.

Unfortunately our response has remained stubbornly reactionary rather than preventive, piecemeal rather than comprehensive, and almost wholly dependent on civil society environmental activists.

A universal lead screening for preschool and school-aged children and a lead education program for parents are recommended for implementation in Kenya.

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