Exposure to heavy metal particles pose learning difficulties to children – Report

Scientists say the location of schools along major roads, industrial zones and automobile shops poses health risk, especially, to children.

The results of a study published in the global journal, Cogent Chemistry, says the potential of learning difficulty among such risks.

Researchers collected and analyzed heavy metal in dust from 20 selected nursery and kindergarten classrooms in Kumasi.

Construction of roads and the establishment of industrial hubs may provide good markers for sitting school, but the long-term effect on humans and environment could be unwelcoming.

“I collaborated with a friend in Switzerland about three years ago on levels of toxic substances in street dust. So from that research I said if there could be that many toxic substances in street dust why don’t we extend it into classroom?” the lead scientist and first ever Fayzah M. Al-Kharafi prize recipient, Dr Marian Asantewah Nkansah of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology said.

“I’ve observed a collection of dust anytime these classrooms are swept and I wanted to find out if these kids are exposed to something harmful,” he added. 

Dust samples were analyzed for the presence of cobalt, chromium, mercury, lead and cadmium.

Some amounts of all these metals were present in some of the samples except cadmium, which was not detected.

Exposure to such heavy metals, potentially, has serious health implications as they may find their way into the human body and destroy the central nervous system and other internal organs. 

The study team found cobalt, chromium, mercury and lead levels below World Health Organization (WHO) acceptable standards, which means they pose no immediate health threat.

“Though levels pose no significant danger, we are concerned continuous exposure may be harmful,” Dr Nkansah noted.

Schools in and around Suame in Kumasi are found to have lead and chromium levels above 19 other areas studied.

Activities at automobile mechanic shops sited 10 metres away from the schools are found to be the cause.

Exhaust fumes, engine wear, leaks and spillage from batteries and radiators, among others, release lead into the environment.

“As much as possible there should be a radius within which schools are sited,’’ Dr Nkansah recommends.

“As far as manufacturing industries are concerned, especially for children, they are not exposed to these potentially harmful substances,’’ she concluded.

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