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UNEP urges to forge laws to phase out lead in paint
United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Management Officer Mihaela Claudia Paun called for forging laws to phase out lead in paint.
“Lead is extremely hazardous, and there’s no known level of exposure considered safe,” she said.
“The newly released guidelines support evidence-based policymaking and inform decisions at all stages of the policy development process,” she said.
Every year, an estimated 900,000 people die from lead exposure. Studies have found that childhood exposure to lead results in economic losses of $977 billion annually. And lead exposure can also result in an increased risk of antisocial behavior, cardiovascular disease and reduced fertility.
But despite legally binding controls in 87 countries, lead is still commonly used in paint, and experts warn that it’s time to stop brushing aside the hazardous chemical’s human and environmental health impacts.
UNEP is taking the lead in addressing this critical issue by pushing for stricter legislation and providing technical support. Alongside the Global Environment Facility, it recently published Lead Paint Reformulation Technical Guidelines to help manufacturers phase out lead.
Lead is commonly added to make paint more vivid and moisture-resistant. But the production, use and decay of lead paint all release the chemical into the air, dust, and soil. From there, it is inhaled, ingested and comes into contact with skin. Lead paint is particularly popular in playgrounds and on furniture. Young children, people with occupational exposure and many living in older houses are especially vulnerable.
However, lead exposure is preventable. The most effective measure is introducing laws that eliminate it at its source, say experts. In 2011, UNEP and the World Health Organization formed the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint.
A voluntary partnership between governments, academia, non-governmental organizations and paint companies, it is dedicated to phasing out paints that have intentionally added lead.
The Alliance helps States develop and implement laws to curb the use of lead paint. It also encourages industry to voluntarily stop the manufacture, import and sale of lead paints and supports civil society groups and other stakeholders to raise awareness about the health and environmental impacts of lead paint
The Alliance has recommended that there be no more than 90 micrograms (mg) of lead in each kilogram of paint, a total that experts say provides the best available health protection while still being technically feasible.
In 2012, only 52 countries had mandatory legal requirements focused on lead in paint. Now, with support from the Lead Paint Alliance, 87 countries have such laws, and the Alliance is aiming to reach the 100 mark by 2023. UNEP is also working to introduce stricter lead limits in countries that have existing laws to ensure they can better protect human and environmental health.
UNEP data shows that 100 low- and middle-income countries have yet to set legal limits on lead paint, while six countries with lead paint laws had limits of 1,000 mg/kg or higher.
“While continuing to support countries to adopt lead paint laws, the Lead Paint Alliance is also looking at the issue of compliance and enforcement for countries that have already adopted such a law to ensure effective application on the ground,” says Sandra Averous-Monnery, UNEP’s Officer in charge, Head of Knowledge and Risk Unit.