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Articles by Will Fitzgibbon, The Examination

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Cyrille Ndembi Traore cradles his daughter Cyrfanie in front of his home near the Metssa Congo factory in Vindoulou on September 16, 2023.

This story is a co-publication with The Examination, a new nonprofit newsroom specializing in global public health reporting. Sign up to get the Examination’s investigations in your inbox. This story is also available in French.

At noon, dusk, and in the dead of night, Cyrille Traoré Ndembi grabs his phone and films his nearest neighbor.

The battery recycling factory roars, rattling Ndembi’s bed. Its chimneys belch smoke into the air, sending bitter odors through the windows of the family’s concrete home. Ndembi’s front garden, where his children play, is sprinkled with a black dust laced with lead — one of the most dangerous metals on the planet.

Ndembi calls one chimney “the tower of death.”

Since moving to Vindoulou, a sandy grid of shacks and homes off the main highway in the Republic of Congo, four years ago, Ndembi’s wife and daughters have suffered from pneumonia, bronchitis, and persistent coughs, medical records show.

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