Child Exposure to Lead in the Vicinities of Informal Used Lead-Acid Battery Recycling Operations in Nairobi Slums, Kenya

Maureene Auma Ondayo, Gelas Muse Simiyu, Phillip Okoth Raburu, Were FH. "Child Exposure to Lead in the Vicinities of Informal Used Lead-Acid Battery Recycling Operations in Nairobi Slums, Kenya." Journal of Health and Pollution. 2016;6(12):15-25.


Background. Child exposure to lead from informal used lead-acid battery (ULAB) recycling operations is a serious environmental health problem, particularly in developing countries.

Objectives. We investigated child exposure to lead in the vicinities of ULAB recycling operations in the Dandora, Kariobangi and Mukuru slums in Nairobi between January and August 2015.

Methods. Top soil (n = 232) and floor dust (n = 322) samples were collected from dwelling units (n = 120) and preparatory schools (n = 44) and analyzed using an inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometer at the Mines and Geological Department Laboratory in the Ministry of Mining, Nairobi. From the obtained lead levels in soil and house dust, child blood lead levels were subsequently predicted using the Integrated Exposure Uptake Biokinetic Model for Lead in Children (IEUBK), Windows version.

Results. Lead loadings in all the floor dust samples from the Dandora, Kariobangi and Mukuru slums exceeded the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) guidance value for lead on floors with a range of 65.2 – 58,194 μg/ft2. Control floor dust samples recorded lower lead loadings compared to the Dandora, Kariobangi and Mukuru slums. Lead concentration in 70.7% of the soil samples collected from waste dumps, industrial sites, residential areas, playgrounds and preparatory schools in Dandora, Kariobangi and Mukuru exceeded the respective USEPA guidance values for lead in soils. Lead concentration in 100% of control soil samples were below the respective USEPA limits. The IEUBK model predicted that nearly 99.9% of children ≤ 7 years old living near informal ULAB recycling operations in Dandora, Kariobangi and Mukuru were at risk of being lead poisoned, with predicted blood lead levels (BLL) above the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reference value for blood lead. A total of 99.9% of exposed children living in the Mukuru slums are likely to have BLL above 34 μg/dL.

Conclusions. There is a need for coordinated efforts to decrease lead emissions from informal battery recycling in Nairobi slums and to remediate existing soils, particularly around battery workplaces and dumpsites. The BLL of local children should be clinically tested and appropriate intervention measures taken.

Keywords: soil, house dust, predicted child blood lead, used lead-acid battery recycling, Nairobi slums, IEUBK

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