News / Africa

    Study: African Aluminum Pots Contain Lead

    Locally made aluminum pots in Cameroon, and probably in much of Africa, are likely to be contaminated with lead (
(Courtesy: Occupational Knowledge International).
    Locally made aluminum pots in Cameroon, and probably in much of Africa, are likely to be contaminated with lead ( (Courtesy: Occupational Knowledge International).

    Multimedia

    Audio
    • Listen to De Capua report on Africa aluminum cookware

    Joe DeCapua

    Locally made aluminum pots and pans are very common in Africa and Asia.

    But a new study in Cameroon has raised questions about their safety, saying high levels of lead are leaching from the cookware into food.

    Listen to De Capua report on Africa aluminum cookware
    Listen to De Capua report on Africa aluminum cookwarei
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    The World Health Organization has not posted any regulations regarding lead in cookware, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has said there’s really no safe level of lead exposure.

    Ashland University and Occupational Knowledge International conducted the research in Cameroon that appears in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

    “I must say we literally stumbled upon this," said Perry Gottesfeld, Occupational Knowledge International’s executive director. "We were working in Cameroon for the past four years. We had been doing awareness sessions and outreach around lead in paint trying to get companies there to reformulate to take out the lead additives and to get the government to put in regulation. And in the process the question had come up – well, what about the pots?”

    The lead awareness campaign was done in partnership with the Education Center for Development, a Cameroonian NGO.

    “Our partners went out and visited where these are made and reported back that, in fact, this is made primarily from scrape metal. And so that of course peaked our interest. And that’s when we decided to do an investigation to find out what the levels of lead and other heavy metals were in those pots,” said Gottesfeld.

    The researchers wanted to know how much lead was being served with daily meals. Gottesfeld said lead exposure has effects that are both acute and chronic.

    “We found that the average or median level was about 97 micrograms of lead per serving – serving size being about 250 milliliters. So this is a very high concentration of lead and a type of exposure that people would likely get on a regular, daily basis if using this kind of cookware.”

    That’s hundreds of times higher than the level the U.S. State of California has determined to be the Maximum Allowable Dose per day.

    Gottesfeld said, “In terms of low-level lead health effects that occur on an ongoing basis like this one, we could expect neurological damage that’s manifested in reduced performance in school – reduced IQ – and other learning disabilities. We also know though that it affects the health of an individual throughout their life and does result in higher rates of heart disease and stroke. And it doers result in a very high death rate among populations who are exposed long term.”

    He said that there are reports that similar lead levels are found in locally made aluminum cookware in Thailand and Bangladesh. He said taking steps to eliminate the lead-laced pots pose challenges.

    “I think the first question we need to ask is how extensive is this problem. But ultimately I think it’s going to require some regulation on the part of government. But also it’s going to require working with these local manufacturers to educate them about the kinds of scrape metal that they should and shouldn’t use in making this kind of cookware.”

    He said the scrap metal could be tested for lead before it’s melted down to make cookware. This could be done with a portable device called X-ray fluorescence, or XRF, which gives results in a matter of seconds. Researchers are considering a pilot project to determine whether on-site testing is feasible in Cameroon.

    Another option is to have the cookware manufactured with a process called anodization. It places a coating on aluminum that reduces the amount of lead and other metals leaching into food.

    “We know that lead poisoning is a huge problem throughout Africa, but almost all of it goes undetected because there are no facilities to test for blood lead levels in most countries in Africa. So we know that there are literally millions of children and adults, who are overexposed to lead. And they just continue to suffer with these symptoms and they’re often misdiagnosed with some other unrelated disease,” said Gottesfeld.

    Occupational Knowledge International recommends that African laboratories have the capacity to conduct tests for blood lead levels. Field tests are also available.

    Gottesfeld added that awareness campaigns are needed for those who run the small companies that manufacture the pots.

    “We would like to follow-up by doing more outreach and education with these manufacturers so that they better understand the kinds of scrape that contain higher levels of lead and other contaminants. Clearly, if they were using pure aluminum this would not be a problem.”

    He said recent surveys in Africa and Asia “suggest blood lead levels have remained stubbornly high despite the ban on lead gasoline in most of the world.” 

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora