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Lead in paint

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About Lead in paint

Lead can be present at high levels in paint, especially in the over 100 countries that still allow the manufacture, import and sale of paints containing lead. Lead is a cumulative toxic element particularly harmful to young children and pregnant women. There is no safe level of lead exposure known, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and irreversible neurological damages, such as loss of IQ points, poor educational attainment, attention deficit disorder and anti-social behavior. In adults, lead exposure can cause hypertension, renal impairment and damage to the reproductive organs. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has estimated that in 2017 lead exposure accounted for 1.05 million deaths due to long-term effects on health, with the highest burden in low- and middle-income countries. 

Due to its versatile properties, lead has been used for millennia by humans for various types of manufacturing. In paint, lead compounds can be added as pigments, driers or as anti-corrosives to add durability, opacity and color. Lead paint can be found in homes, schools and playgrounds and is an important source of exposure to lead for children. Intact lead paint is safe. However, as the paint ages it starts to decay, and can fragment into flakes and dust that contaminate the environment and are readily swallowed by young children who typically play on the ground and frequently put their hands to their mouths.

Safer alternatives to lead compounds can be used in paints, and a number of paint companies have stopped using lead additives on a voluntary basis. The best way to protect the population from lead in paint exposure is to act now by introducing and enforcing laws that either ban or restrict the use of lead in paint. This is more cost-effective than after-the-fact efforts to remediate homes and deal with the health consequences of lead exposure. In addition, eliminating lead paint now brings future economic benefits in terms of preventing losses due to reduced productivity and avoiding the costs of the health impacts of lead .

The International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM) at its second session in 2009 identified lead paint as an emerging policy issue under the Strategic Approach framework. The ICCM at its third to fourth sessions continued to affirm the goal of eliminating  lead paint and in 2011 mandated the creation of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (Lead Paint Alliance). The Lead Paint Alliance, led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and chaired by the US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA), aims to  support the introduction of laws on phasing out the manufacture, import and sale of paints containing lead and eventually to eliminate the risks from such paint. The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) Global Environment Facility (GEF) project provides the impetus to attain the Lead Paint Alliance goal of eliminating lead paint.

 

 

 

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Lead Paint Factsheet
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Lead Paint Factsheet

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  • Factsheets and brochures
    Lead Paint Factsheet

    Factsheets and brochures

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    This factsheet presents the work of UNEP and the Lead Paint Alliance. The document also highlights its impacts and the SAICM GEF project Lead in paint component.

  • Infographic
    Interactive visualisation of the status of lead paint laws

    Infographic

    Interactive visualisation of the status of lead paint laws

    The interactive map shows the status of national lead paint laws as provided by governments to UNEP and WHO, Secretariat of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint. Information on an...

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    Suggested Steps for Establishing a Lead Paint Law

    Factsheets and brochures

    Suggested Steps for Establishing a Lead Paint Law

    This fact sheet outlines steps that have been helpful in countries that have adopted lead paint laws. The steps are not necessarily sequential or needed in every country.

  • Policy document
    Model Law and Guidance for Regulating Lead Paint

    Policy document

    Model Law and Guidance for Regulating Lead Paint

    UN Environment, in cooperation with World Health Organization, United States Environment Protection Agency and other partners, has developed a model law and guidance in order to assist countries in...

  • Manuals and toolkits
    Guidance on organizing an advocacy or awareness-raising campaign on lead paint

    Manuals and toolkits

    Guidance on organizing an advocacy or awareness-raising campaign on lead paint

    The guidance provides direction and tools to support advocacy or awareness-raising activities to build momentum in countries toward the development, adoption and implementation of legally binding measures on lead paint. It contains key messages, strategies to identify your target audience and links to available materials. The document builds on the experience of the Lead Paint Alliance in its annual International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week campaign.

  • Policy document
    Eliminating Lead Paint: The Role of the Paint Industry

    Policy document

    Eliminating Lead Paint: The Role of the Paint Industry

    The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) is a global policy framework which aims to protect human health and the environment from the unsound management of chemicals and...

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    Lead Paint Alliance Highlights Success Stories Ahead of Week of Action

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    Lead Paint Alliance Highlights Success Stories Ahead of Week of Action

    Ahead of the eighth International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (Lead Paint Alliance) has highlighted a number of success stories from 2019,...

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    WHO Makes Case for Laws to Eliminate Lead Paint

    Article

    WHO Makes Case for Laws to Eliminate Lead Paint

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a policy brief and accompanying technical brief on eliminating lead paint and ways for countries to take action.The briefs, titled ...

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    Experts Discuss Success Factors in Regulating Lead in Paint

    The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (Lead Paint Alliance) held a webinar for policymakers on eliminating lead in paint through regulatory action. The Lead Paint Alliance ...

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    Dates Announced for International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week 2020

    The eighth International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (ILPPW) will take place from 25–31 October 2020. Virtual events during the week will focus on the need to accelerate progress towards the...

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    Prevention Week Pushes Global Phase Out of Lead Paint

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    Prevention Week Pushes Global Phase Out of Lead Paint

    ​The eighth International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (ILPPW) will focus on accelerating progress to phase out lead paint around the world. A website for the campaign from...

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