South Sudan oil pollution ‘threatens thousands’
Nairobi. Dangerous heavy metals used in oil production in war-torn South Sudan have leaked into drinking water sources used by 180,000 people with life-threatening health risks, a rights group has said.

Toxicological tests carried out on hair samples from 96 volunteers living around the Thar Jath oil processing plant in South Sudan’s northern Unity region revealed they were “highly intoxicated with pollutants such as lead and barium,” said Klaus Stieglitz, from the German-based Sign of Hope organisation.

“There is a direct link between the contamination of the people and the activities of the petroleum industry working in this area,” he said, adding that the research built on six years of hydrological tests by the group in the region.

“The total toxic stress — as found in the hair samples — of the human population of the area is life-threatening,” said Klaus-Dietrich Runow, from Germany’s Institute for Functional Medicine and Environmental Health, one of two separate independent toxicologists who assessed the samples.

Previous tests have shown “direct links” between oil drilling and drinking water contamination.

Despite the small number of samples analysed, the “homogeneity” of the results suggests they apply to “large sections” of the surrounding population, estimated at 180,000 people.

“There is a concern for health effects in the localities of Koch, Leer, and Nyal,” Professor Fritz Pragst, from Berlin’s Charite hospital said.

The areas lie in the watershed of the White Nile river and the swamplands of the Sudd. (AFP)