Lead in paint
About Lead in paint
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 industry and chemicals manufacturing. This is the case for lead paint, where lead compounds can be added to paint 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 it ages the paint starts to decay, fragmenting into flakes and dust that contaminate the environment. Paint flakes and dust 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 introduce and enforce laws that either ban or restrict the use of lead in paint. This is more cost-effective than to remediate homes and deal with the health consequences of lead exposure later on.
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 in its third to fourth sessions continued to affirm the goal of eliminating lead paint and at its third session and 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 currently chaired by the US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) aims to eliminate lead 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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