lead paint
by IISD's SDG Knowledge Hub,

The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (Lead Paint Alliance) has published its annual Update on the Global Status of Legal Limits on Lead in Paint. The 2021 edition describes the status of lead paint laws in countries as of December 2021, activities undertaken by countries where lead paint laws are in the process of being established, and events that took place in 2021.

While no known level of lead exposure is considered safe, the concentration limit for total lead recommended by the Model Law and Guidance for Regulating Lead Paint is 90 parts per million (ppm), the lowest, most protective regulatory limit for lead paint that has been set in countries. This limit represents a technically feasible limit for paint manufacturers to achieve. Lead can cause permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, and can impair reproductive function, leaving young children and pregnant women especially vulnerable. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly half of deaths due to chemicals exposure in 2019 were due to lead exposure and resulting cardiovascular diseases.

Eliminating lead exposure, such as through establishing laws to stop the manufacture, sale, and import of lead paint, is the most effective way to protect people from lead’s adverse effects, the Update notes. Most industrialized countries adopted laws or regulations to control the lead content of residential and decorative paints in the 1970s and 1980s. However, use of lead in paint continues in many parts of the world. To protect human health, laws, regulations, or enforceable standards are needed in every country, the publication underscores.

With respect to global progress towards eliminating lead paint, as of 31 December 2021, 84 countries, comprising 43% of all countries, had legally binding controls to limit the production, import, and sale of lead paints. Seventy-seven countries stated they did not have such controls in place, and information was unavailable for 32 countries. Around 35 countries were in the early and final stages of drafting laws, the Update reports. In 2021, Georgia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), Morocco, Peru, and Ukraine established new laws to address lead in paint, while Jordan updated an existing lead paint law.

The report also describes how things stand in each region. Seven countries in Africa (13%), 12 in Asia and the Pacific (31%), five in West Asia (45%), 44 in Europe (81%), 14 in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) (42%), and both the US and Canada have lead paint laws. 

Also in 2021, the Update reports, WHO published a new version of the map showing the status of legally binding controls on lead paint contained in the WHO Global Health Observatory, launched a guideline for clinical management of exposure to lead to help healthcare providers recognize and provide care to individuals who have had exposure to lead, and published a series of outreach and advocacy materials to support its partners in organizing events towards eliminating lead paint. The Lead Paint Alliance updated the Lead Paint Regulatory Toolkit. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) developed a lead in paint laboratory database. The WHO Regional Office for Africa, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and UNEP regional offices conducted regional webinars in Africa and the Caribbean. UNEP conducted four global online discussions of the Lead in Paint Community of Practice.

The Update also includes a detailed list of Lead Paint Alliance activities and events that took place in 2021, including a Validation Workshop on the Paint Reformulation Guidelines in April 2021, and the Ninth International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (ILPPW), in October 2021.

UNEP and WHO serve as the joint Secretariat for the Lead Paint Alliance, which is chaired by the US. The Alliance was formally launched in 2011 to help achieve international goals to prevent children’s exposure to lead from paints containing lead, and to minimize occupational exposure to lead paint. It aims to promote establishing lead paint laws in all countries through appropriate national regulatory frameworks to stop the manufacture, import, and sale of lead paint. [Publication: 2021 Update on Global Status of Legal Limits on Lead in Paint] [Publication Landing Page] [Lead Paint Alliance] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on the 2020 Update] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on the 2019 Update]





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