By Fred Kiva
The World Health Organization (WHO) and other Lead Paint Alliance partners are urging governments to scale up efforts towards elimination of lead paints, with only two months left to the 2020 global elimination deadline.
At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, governments called for lead paint to be phased out because of its associated health risks. Progress on the phase out was discussed at the second session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management in 2009 and in Resolution II/4/B the International Conference endorsed the creation of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (Lead Paint Alliance) as an international, multi-stakeholder partnership that would work towards the phasing out of lead paint.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) jointly lead this initiative. In its latest statement, the World Health Organization highlights the dangers of lead exposure especially to children below six years and pregnant women. “Lead exposure affects human health; especially there is no known level of lead exposure without harmful effects. Even low levels of lead exposure may cause lifelong health problems,” it says.
“Lead is toxic to multiple body systems, including the central nervous system and brain, the reproductive system, the kidneys, the cardiovascular system, the blood and the immune system. Lead exposure is especially dangerous to children’s developing brains and can result in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ) and attention span, impaired learning ability, and increased risk of behavioral problems,” the health organization adds.
Relaying the WHO statement, Peter Akugizibwe Araali the Executive Director Western Media for Environment and Conservation- WEMECO, a local partner with Lead Paint Alliance stresses need for the government to pass “laws, regulations or enforceable standards to stop the manufacture, importation and sale of lead-containing paints.” “There is need for the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) to step up efforts to ensure that paint which contains lead is not allowed on market,” Akugizibwe said.
According to the World Health Organization, children get lead exposure when they touch the lead painted walls or by putting the paint dust and soil chips in their mouths. “Health risks can be avoided by using paints without added lead,” WHO emphasizes. Lead is added to some paints for color, to speed up drying and to prevent corrosion. As lead paint ages, it flakes and crumbles, creating lead-contaminated dust and soil, which is responsible for more lead exposure.
According to WHO statistics, as of September 30, 2018 less than half of countries globally had legally binding controls on lead paint.
About Lead Paint
In the context of action to eliminate lead paint, the term ‘paint’ includes varnishes, lacquers, stains, enamels, glazes, primers and other coatings. The term lead paint is used to describe any paint to which one or more lead compounds have been added. The cut-off concentration for lead paint used is 90 parts per million (ppm, dry weight of paint), the most strict legal limit enacted in the world today. However information available is that most paints in Uganda don’t heed this standard.