Assessment of the presence of soil lead contamination near a former lead smelter in Mombasa, Kenya

Bret Ericson*, Victor Odongo Otieno, Cecelia Nganga, Judith St. Fort, Mark Patrick Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
72 Downloads (Pure)


Background. The informal settlement of Owino Uhuru near an abandoned lead smelter attracted international attention due to an apparent lead poisoning event. Despite this attention, the environmental data collected to date do not indicate high levels of residual contamination.

Objectives. To further confirm previous findings and determine any necessary risk mitigation measures, an assessment of surface soil lead concentrations was conducted in the community.

Methods. Investigators carried out an assessment of the soil in a ~12,000 m2 section of the Owino Uhuru neighborhood over the course of a single day in June 2017 with the assistance of community leaders. Fifty-nine in situ soil measurements were taken using an Innov-X tube-based (40 kV) alpha X-ray fluorescence instrument (pXRF).

Results. The assessment found that mean surface soil lead concentrations in areas conducive to exposure were 110 mg/kg (95% CI: 54-168); below United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Environment Canada screening levels of 400 mg/kg and 140 mg/kg, respectively.

Conclusions. There is likely no current need for risk mitigation activities in the community. These results could inform discussions on the allocation of public health spending.

Competing Interests. The authors declare no competing financial interests. BE, VOO, CN and JSF are employees of Pure Earth. MPT sits on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Health and Pollution.

Original languageEnglish
Article number190307
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Health and Pollution
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

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  • lead exposure
  • LMICs
  • informal settlements


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