Millions of people still dying due to lead paint exposure

PHILE PHOTO:Mothers who live in apartments with high lead levels protest outside of a lead contaminated building October 22, 2003 in New York City. A new study released October 22, 2003 by the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation has concluded that 1 in 4 children in some parts of New York are at risk for lead poisoning. Children ingest lead paint and lead paint dust, resulting in lead poisoning, which causes irreversible brain and central nervous system damage. While lead paint was banned in housing construction in New York in 1960, buildings built before 1960 still have high amounts of lead which landlords, especially in impoverished neighborhoods, are reluctant to remove./Getty Images)

Beginning Sunday from 20 to 26 October 2019 the stage is set for the international lead poisoning prevention week of action.The spotlight however will be on ways and means of eliminating lead paint.

PHILE PHOTO:Mothers who live in apartments with high lead levels protest outside of a lead contaminated building October 22, 2003 in New York City./Getty Images

According to the data available Lead poisoning is preventable, yet the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has estimated that in 2017 lead exposure accounted for 1.06 million deaths and 24.4 million years lost to disability and death due to long-term effects on health.

The highest burden though is in developing countries. Of particular concern is the role of lead exposure in the development of intellectual disability in children.

Even though there is wide recognition of this problem and many countries have taken action, exposure to lead, particularly in childhood, remains of key concern to health care providers and public health officials worldwide.

An important source of domestic lead exposure, particularly in children, is paint containing high levels of lead. These paints are still widely available and used in many countries for decorative purposes, although good alternatives without added lead are available.

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, governments called for lead paint to be phased out. The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (Lead Paint Alliance) was formed in 2011 to promote the phase-out of the manufacture and sale of paints containing lead and eventually to eliminate the risks that such paints pose.

A key requirement for achieving this is the establishment of appropriate national regulatory frameworks to stop the manufacture, import, export, distribution, sale and use of lead paints and products coated with lead paints.

In its Business Plan, the Lead Paint Alliance set a target that by 2020 all countries should have in place such a regulatory framework. In a survey carried out by WHO and the United Nations Environment Programme, (UNEP), which jointly coordinate the Lead Paint Alliance, as of 31 July 2019 only 72 governments confirmed that they have legally binding control measures on lead paint.

But WHO has 194 Member States, so there is still, a significant gap to achieving the 2020 goal set by the Lead Paint Alliance that all countries should have banned lead paint.