Already the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, co-led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), has announced the goal of eliminating lead paint around the world by 2020
Speaking to this paper at the opening of East African workshop on development of National and Regional regulations and Standards on lead in paints last week in Dar es Salaam, the acting Director General of Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) Edna Ndumbaro says lead is a cumulative toxicant particularly hazardous to young children and pregnant women and no safe level of its exposure has been established.
The TBS acting boss notes that lead paints is still widely available in developing nations and countries with economies in transition.
The estimated reduced cognitive potentials (loss of IQ points) due to preventable childhood lead exposure equals to 98.2million pints which translates to USD134.7bn of economic loss, or 4.03 percent of GDP in Africa.
However, she says East African countries have harmonised the standards for content of lead in paints which have to be followed by all members.
Asked whether legal actions to be taken against any country which is reluctant to adhere to the standard, she said move will be taken later on according to stipulated laws.
“We cannot force paint manufacturers to close their factories right now, we have given them a chance up to the year 2020 to ensure that lead content in paints is minimised,” she adds.
The Senior Programme officer of the UNEP Eisaka Toda noted that their overall objective was to advance understanding, commitment and actions towards the development of national and regional regulations and standards on a total lead content limit of 90 ppm for all paints in East Africa.
He says almost all countries in the world have agreed with UNEP to eliminate lead in paint by the year 2020.
“We thank developed countries such as China which have agreed to support the move against elimination of lead in paints reaching that year,” he adds.
Experts say paint that contains lead additives poses a risk of lead poisoning, especially for young children. As lead paint deteriorates over time, children may inhale or ingest lead through household dust, paint chips or contaminated soil.
Childhood lead poisoning can have lifelong health impacts, including: learning disabilities, anemia, and disorders in coordination, visual, spatial and language skills.
The global alliance to eliminate Lead Paint was established to help achieve international goals to prevent children’s exposure to lead paint and to minimize occupational exposures to lead paint.
The broad objective of the Alliance is to promote a phase-out of the manufacture and sale of paints containing lead and to eventually eliminate the risks that such paints pose.
Paint that contains high-levels of lead additives poses a great risk of lead poisoning, especially for children and pregnant women.
When lead paint is used in homes, schools and playgrounds, young people are directly and constantly exposed to high levels of lead from paint chips and in dust or soil. Lead poisoning can have lifelong health impacts on children, including: reduced IQs, learning disabilities, hypertension and seizures.
While substitutes for lead paint are cost effective and easily accessible, the use of lead for decorating homes, schools and children's toys is still permitted in numerous countries. The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint Alliance is working to phase-out the manufacture and sale of paints containing lead to eliminate the risks that such paints pose.
"More than 90 years after the League of Nations called for a ban on lead in paint, and despite the existence of many safe alternatives, young children and pregnant mothers in the developing world are still exposed to high levels of the dangerous toxin through unsafe paints," says Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP.
"Each year childhood lead exposure contributes to an estimated 600,000 new cases of intellectual disabilities, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
This can and should be prevented. UNEP is working with the WHO and other partners in the Alliance supporting national efforts to establish a regulatory framework to control the manufacture, trade and use of lead paints, informing the public about the hazards of lead exposure, and encouraging manufacturers to eliminate lead compounds from their paint formulations," he added.
"We are pleased that UNEP's Goodwill Ambassador Don Cheadle, who has consistently demonstrated his deep commitment to amplifying the need to move towards a more inclusive and greener sustainable development path, has lent his voice to the issue. The campaign calls on all stakeholders to commit to significant action to eliminate lead in paint for the benefit of the health of people and the planet," notes Steiner.
"Lead poisoning still remains a significant environmental health concern for children globally, and lead paint is one of the major contributors to this health threat. But shockingly, over half of the countries in the world still allow lead in household paint," emphasised Don Cheadle. "So let's work together to keep poison off our walls, out of our homes, out of our schools and out of our kids.”
"The EPA is proud to be the Chair of this important global initiative working with the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Health Organisation, national governments, the paint industry, and citizen groups and organisations around the world to eliminate lead from paint by 2020," states Walker Smith.
In its work towards reaching that goal, the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint can draw on the success of phasing-out lead in fuels. Global action to this end, catalysed by the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, has reached a point where only three countries in the world still use leaded gasoline.
The goal to eradicate lead in paints was among other commitments made at the celebration, which featured UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, among other high-level officials and prominent artists, who voiced their commitment to resolving the pressing issues of our time relating to climate change and the elimination of poverty.
Prior to the announcement, Don Cheadle joined the Earth Day founder, Denis Hayes, NASA astronaut, Piers Sellers, and other officials for a high level round-table session on climate change communication strategies. The discussion focused on identifying new engagement methods and the means of measuring impact to advance climate solutions.
The momentum created by the Global Citizen Earth Day celebrations, and the build-up to the United Nations World Environment Day on June 5th is expected to continue throughout the year, as the world leaders convene to decide on a new Post-2015 Development Agenda and move to adopt a new climate change agreement.