One of Africa‘‘s largest waste dumps, the Dandora Municipal Dumping Site in Nairobi, is a serious threat to children living nearby and the city‘‘s environment generally, a new study shows.

The study, commissioned by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), examined 328 children aged 2-18 living around the Dandora waste dump and its health implications. The study also compared soil samples from the site with another location just outside of Nairobi.

Half of the children tested had concentrations of lead in their blood exceeding internationally accepted levels, while 42 percent of soil samples recorded lead levels almost 10 times higher than what is considered unpolluted soil (over 400 parts per million (ppm) compared to 50 ppm). Children have been exposed to pollutants such as heavy metals and toxic substances through soil, water and air (smoke from waste burning) with implications for respiratory, gastrointestinal and dermatological or skin diseases. Almost half of the children tested were suffering from respiratory diseases, including chronic bronchitis and asthma.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “We had anticipated some tough and worrisome findings, but the actual results are even more shocking than we had imagined at the outset”. “The Dandora site may pose some special challenges for the city of Nairobi and Kenya as a nation. But it is also a mirror to the condition of rubbish sites across many parts of Africa and other urban centres of the developing world,” he said.

Mr Steiner said UNEP stands ready to assist the local and national authorities in the search for improved waste management systems and strategies including ones that generate sustainable and healthier jobs in the waste handling and recycling sectors.

“It is clear that urgent action is needed to reduce the health and environmental hazards so that children and adults can go about their daily lives without fear of being poisoned and without damage to nearby river systems,” he said.

The 30-acre large Dandora dumping site receives 2,000 tonnes of rubbish every day, including plastics, rubber and lead paint treated wood, generated by some 4.5 million people living the Kenyan capital. The study also found evidence of the presence of hazardous waste, such as chemical and hospital waste, on the dumpsite.

Every day, scores of people, including children, from the nearby slums and low-income residential areas use the dump to find food, recyclables and other valuables they can sell as a source of income, at the same time inhaling the noxious fumes from routine waste burning and methane fires. Waste often finds its way into the Nairobi River that runs just meters away from the dumpsite, polluting water used by local residents and farmers downstream.

The St. John‘‘s Catholic Church and Informal School is located in close proximity to the dump. Between 2003 and 2006, the Church dispensary has treated 9,121 people per year on average for respiratory problems.

“We have been witnessing an alarming situation regarding Dandora children‘‘s health: asthma, anaemia and skin infections are by now endemic. These abnormalities are linked to the environment around the dumping site, and are exacerbated by poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition. Since waste dumping is unrestricted and unmanaged, people are also at risk from contracting blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS,” said Njoroge Kimani, principal investigator and author of the report.

Mr Kimani and his team conducted detailed research into Dandora Municipal Dumping Site‘‘s impacts on public health and the environment. Experts from the University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, Kenyatta National Hospital and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute as well as local community leaders from St. Joh

Ano da Publicação:
WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #41-2006-October 12, 2007
Kit Strange/Warmer Bulletin
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