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Independent AfricaResidents of Congo community raise concerns about pollution stemming from a lead...

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Residents of Congo community raise concerns about pollution stemming from a lead factory

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Amidst smoking chimneys, lead-laden dust, and noxious odors, the inhabitants of this factory nestled in the heart of a working-class community appear to have grown accustomed to the hazardous blend they’ve been exposed to for years.

Yet among them are individuals—men, women, and children—whose medical examinations have revealed distressing levels of lead in their bloodstream, rendering their health increasingly fragile with each passing day.

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“This factory makes our lives unbearable. Whenever they release the smoke, our stomachs ache, and my child and I end up contaminated with lead,” lamented one resident.

The company in question, Metssa Congo, a Congolese-registered Indian enterprise, ranks among the world’s top recyclers of used batteries and lead, one of the most perilous metals known to man.

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Cyrille Ndembi, along with his fellow residents, spearheads a legal campaign against the company, striving to secure the closure and relocation of the factory.

Since their arrival in the neighborhood in 2019, he and his family have grappled with chronic pneumonia, attributing their health woes to the factory’s operations.

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“We consulted a laboratory, which took samples, the analyses were carried out in France at the CERBA laboratory and it turned out that we were intoxicated with lead. And that’s on a sample of 26 people. As we speak, the administrative summary judgment judge has ordered the temporary suspension of the plant’s activities, pending a ruling on the merits. But as long as they continue to work we remain exposed and continue to inhale these toxic gases that are making us sicker and sicker,” said Cyrille.

“Indeed, the blood lead levels we found were significant enough for there to be no scientific doubt that it did come from this plant, because of the radio concentration, i.e., those closest to the plant had the highest levels,” said Fréderic Mavoungou, a pharmacist and a biologist.

In defense against these allegations, Arun Goswami, the head of the METSSA Group, asserted that the company adhered rigorously to international industrial standards.

While lead poisoning has only been substantiated in a portion of the population, the responsibility now falls on the court to determine whether the factory is indeed the source of the contamination. Meanwhile, additional cases may emerge as the investigation unfolds.

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