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UNEP urges lead paints to be phased out

Children in the developing world are still exposed to “astonishingly high and dangerous levels of lead” through unsafe paints, finds a study by the UN Environment Programme, released Tuesday during the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action.

The study analysed enamel decorative paints from: Argentina, Azerbaijan, Chile, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Tunisia and Uruguay. The research was organised by the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, a group co-led by UNEP and the World Health Organisation.

Most of the paints tested would not meet regulatory standards established in most industrialised countries. Generally, white paints had the lowest lead content, while red, green and yellow paints had the highest lead levels.

Both Chile and Uruguay have national executive decrees that prohibit the production, import, distribution, sale and use of decorative paints with a lead concentration above 600 ppm, and all of the paints tested in these two countries had low total lead concentrations.

But in each of the other seven countries studied, two or more of the samples of enamel decorative paints had lead content greater than 10,000 ppm.

Lead in paint is a problem because painted surfaces deteriorate with time and disturbance, releasing the lead into household dust and soil outside.

An estimated 143,000 deaths a year result from lead poisoning, according to WHO data; lead paint is a major contributor to this death toll.

Worldwide, 30 countries have phased out the use of lead paint. The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint has set a target of 70 countries by 2015.

Over the last seven years, similar studies found high average lead concentrations in Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.

The UNEP report recommends:
National efforts to promote the establishment of legal and regulatory frameworks to control the manufacture, import, export, sale and use of lead paints and products coated with lead paints.

Paint manufacturers are encouraged to eliminate lead compounds from their paint formulations, and participate in programs that provide third party certification that no lead has been added to their paint. They are encouraged to label products to help consumers identify paints free of added lead.

 

 

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