At least 28 Nigerian children killed by lead poisoning from illegal gold mining

At least 28 Nigerian children killed by led poisoning from illegal gold mining

Children work at the gold processing site in Bagega, Nigeria, in 2012 (Courtesy of Olga Overbeek/MSF)

At least 28 children under the age of five have been killed by drinking stream water polluted with lead in Nigeria's Niger state, the country’s health minister Fidelis Nwankwo unveiled Friday.

According to the country’s officials illegal gold mining is the main cause of the tragedy that has left dozens more in critical conditions.

"The devastating impact of this outbreak is associated with new mining sites which were found to contain more leaded ores which are often brought home for crushing and processing," minister Nwankwos told reporters, according to AP.

Doctors found the victims had levels of lead in their blood that were 17 to 22 times higher than acceptable limits as established by the World Health Organization.

The health threat is affecting the same region where doctors still are treating children from a 2010 mass poisoning in Zamfara state that killed 400 kids and left many paralyzed and blind because of delays in government funding for a clean-up, according to aid group Doctors Without Borders.

The organization has cured 2,688 of 5,451 people infected in the last five years and hopes to complete treatment in 2016.

Short-term effects of lead poisoning include acute fever, convulsions, loss of consciousness and blindness, while long-term consequences are anemia, kidney failure and brain damage as the most common.