Utne Blogs > Environment

Roma Kids Poisoned by Lead

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Environment, lead poisoning, Kosovo, Roma, refugees, U.N.,

Roma in Kosovo campChildren in the United States are a bit safer from lead poisoning after the passage of recent legislation. But some kids living in Kosovo are suffering “the world’s worst case of lead poisoning in children,” according the New Internationalist.

The youngsters are Roma, or gypsy, refugees living in U.N. refugee camps in Northern Kosovo. The camps were built in 1999 on toxic sites, and since 2004 several children living there have registered some of the highest recorded lead levels in medical history. Numerous deaths and more than 50 miscarriages have been attributed to lead poisoning. One 7-year-old, whose family was tested on behalf of the German newspaper Bild in an investigation, had the liver of a 50-year-old alcoholic and is expected die prematurely.

The New Internationalist affixes the blame squarely: “Although the U.N. does not deny that an entire generation of Roma children living in these camps could face brain damage and premature death, it still refuses to evacuate the 500 refugees to a lead-free area and provide them with proper medical treatment.”

As the Roma people fight for rights and recognition across Europe, it appears that in Kosovo at least, they must begin by asserting their right not to have their children poisoned.

Image by Ryuugakusei, licensed by Creative Commons.