Global Lead Paint Elimination Report
IPEN, October 2016
Lead is a toxic metal that causes adverse effects on both human health and the environment. While lead exposure is harmful to adults, lead exposure harms children at much lower levels, and the health effects are generally irreversible and can have a lifelong impact.
The younger the child, the more harmful lead can be, and children with nutritional deficiencies absorb ingested lead at an increased rate. The human fetus is the most vulnerable, and a pregnant woman can transfer lead that has accumulated in her body to her developing child. Lead is also transferred through breast milk when lead is present in a nursing mother.
Even small amounts of lead can harm a child’s nervous system, making it more likely that the child will have difficulties in school and engage in impulsive and violent behavior. Lead exposure in young children has been linked to increased rates of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, failure to graduate from high school, conduct disorder, juvenile delinquency, drug use, and incarceration. The economic cost of childhood lead exposure in low- and middle-income countries is estimated at a total cumulative cost burden of $977 billion international dollars per year.
Most highly industrial countries adopted laws or regulations to control the lead content of decorative paints—the paints used on the interiors and exteriors of homes, schools, and other child-occupied facilities—beginning in the 1970s and 1980s. However, more than 40 lead paint studies over the last eight years show that lead paints are still widely sold in low- and middle-income countries, and many paints contain very high levels of lead.
PROGRESS IN LEAD PAINT ELIMINATION
Success in global lead paint elimination will be achieved when all countries have enforced lead paint regulations and paint companies eliminate lead from paint. However, impressive gains have been made in eliminating lead paint over the last several years.
• Greater awareness of lead paint. Data on lead paint is now available in 46 countries, with 15 additional studies scheduled for release by IPEN and NGO partners in 2016.
• New lead paint standards and regulations. Binding regulatory controls limiting lead content of paint have been enacted or are pending in 6 Asian countries and 4 African countries. The East African Community (EAC) has adopted mandatory standards restricting the use of lead paint in its five member states.
• Growing international support. The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP), hosted by UNEP and WHO, has developed a toolkit and hosted regional workshops to help governments enact lead paint laws and eliminate lead paint. Its International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action generated activities in nearly 90 cities in 30 countries in 2015.
• Major paint producers eliminating lead paint. In 2011, Akzo Nobel, the world’s second largest paint producer, announced that it had removed lead from all its paint product lines. In 2016, the world’s largest paint producer, PPG, announced it had removed leaded ingredients from all its consumer paint brands and products in all countries and will completely phase out the use of lead in its products by 2020. In addition, major Asian paint producers in a number of countries have begun eliminating lead from their paint products.
• The world’s first lead paint certification program is now in place. The Lead Safe Paint® certification program was developed by a multistakeholder group in the Philippines, led by the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM). This program independently verifies that all paints under the certified brand contain less than 90 ppm (dry weight) lead in total. So far leading brands in the Philippines and Sri Lanka have received certification under the program.
STILL MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE
Though much has been accomplished in the last several years, the majority of the countries in the world still do not have binding lead paint regulation and lead paint continues to be widely sold in low- and middle-income countries. Much more needs to be done if we are to achieve the GAELP target date of 2020 for all countries having adopted legally binding laws, regulations, standards and/or procedures to control the production, import, sale and use of lead paints.