Children in Earthquake-Affected Areas in Pakistan and Kashmir May Be at Serious Risk from High Levels of Toxins in the Rubble

The rubble of collapsed buildings contains heavy metals such as iron, zinc and lead. Private homes in the region are often painted with lead-based paints. Following the 8 October 2005 earthquake, an estimated 65 million cubic feet of rubble is scattered all over Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Only about five million cubic feet of rubble have been removed so far.

Much of the debris has been disposed of in two rivers, the Jhelum and Neelum, and in gorges that serve as flood water drains and eventually end up in one of the two rivers. The rivers join at Muzaffarabad and are used for drinking and irrigation purposes. Soil, crops and humans are thus exposed to the risk of lead contamination. Environmental officials fear that the large amounts of toxic lead-based substances may also pose a threat to fish and other aquatic life.

Related Links:

“Toxic Warning to Quake Children,” BBC News Online, 17 March 2006.