Northeastern Section - 47th Annual Meeting (18–20 March 2012)

Paper No. 20
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


KAMONJI, Florence C.N. Wangũi, Environmental Studies, Wellesley College, 106 Central Street, Wellesley, MA 02481 and BRABANDER, Daniel J., Geosciences, Wellesley College, 106 Central Street, Wellesley, MA 02481,

While lead poisoning from exposure to urban soils containing legacy leaded fuels and lead based paints is well documented, other non-traditional sources of lead exposure are on the rise. Recycling of lead from used lead acid batteries (ULAB) is becoming profitable as the global price of lead increases. These recycling facilities are often located in industrialising countries where lead exposure is unregulated. In Owino-Uhuru, an informal settlement in Mombasa, Kenya, a ULAB recycling factory opened in 2006, and thereafter three children’s blood lead levels were found to be above the WHO action limit of 10μg/dl while other residents complained of ill health. In order to determine whether the residents of Owino-Uhuru were exposed to lead derived from the ULAB recycling factory, dust wipe samples were taken in 6 randomly selected houses at varying distances from the factory, in a nursery school, at a playground, and in a vegetable garden. The dust wipe samples were analysed using x-ray fluorescence (XRF) to determine lead and other trace element concentrations. Preliminary results indicate [Pb] ranging from 569μg/ft2 ± (95) to 10μg/ft2 ± (1) on walls (n=7) and from 987μg/ft2 ± (327) to 14μg/ft2 ± (2) on floors (n=7). According to current EPA standards, floor dust with [Pb] above 40 μg/ft2 is hazardous for children.

Optical microscopy linked with targeted x-ray diffraction analysis will be used to determine the sources of lead and GIS techniques will reveal the variation of lead concentration as a function of distance from the ULAB recycling factory. Interviews conducted with residents in Owino-Uhuru will contextualise lead exposure pathways. These interview results will be coded and merged with the geochemical data to assess lead exposure risk for at risk community members.

In the absence of accessibility to blood lead tests, this research may serve as a proxy for estimating lead exposure, and will inform best practice recommendations for reducing lead exposure for Owino-Uhuru’s at risk populations.