The International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) of the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) convened a series of webinars on lead paint laws that sought to help bridge the gap between communities and practitioners working on issues related to lead paint laws and compliance. The webinars emphasized that many countries have yet to pass laws banning lead paint and many companies have not yet switched to lead-free ingredients.

The webinars themed, ‘INECE Compliance Conversations: Eliminating Lead Paint,’ took place on 1 and 7 November 2019.

Panelist Allan Meso, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), provided an overview of UNEP’s work on the issue, noting a UN Environment Assembly’s (UNEA) 2018 decision that highlights the importance of financial, technical and other support to strengthen countries’ capacities to manage lead. He highlighted a series of regional workshops and the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, which was established in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) to, inter alia, raise awareness regarding the harmful impacts of lead and on safe alternatives. Meso noted achievements, including development of tools to help countries adopt lead paint laws and a step-by-step guide for countries seeking to strengthen existing regulations, and said more than 70 countries have some form of lead paint legislation in place.

Cate Tierney, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), discussed the Model Law and Guidance for Regulating Lead in Paint, which was developed by UNEP for the Global Alliance. The document: pulls together principles such as standard setting; cites 90 ppm as the lowest technically achievable lead level, which 35 countries are currently abiding by; places the onus and responsibility for compliance throughout the value chain on manufacturers and importers, with industry paying for testing; and is adaptable to national circumstances and different legal frameworks. Tierney outlined key provisions of the Model Law that cover:

  • the scope of coverage in terms of paints and coatings;
  • setting a limit on total lead content;
  • providing clear, effective dates for compliance, such as uniform delayed effective dates or phased dates for different uses/types of paints;
  • providing robust compliance and enforcement mechanisms, where manufacturers and importers are required to: ensure that paints are tested by an accredited, third-party laboratory; sign a “declaration of conformity,” stating that paints comply with the 90 ppm total lead limit; and provide the declaration to distributors, retailers and governments upon request;
  • identifying the government ministry or agency responsible for implementing and enforcing the law; and
  • elaborating consequences for non-compliance.

She added that testing requirements must not be overly burdensome or duplicative, and importers could rely on testing done by foreign manufacturers.

Amanda Rawls, American Bar Association Rule of Law Institute, discussed compliance and enforcement issues, challenges that have arisen since the Model Law was developed, and the need for incentives and other solutions to ensure compliance. She mentioned three components necessary for effective compliance: desire or will; necessary knowledge and skills; and resources and access to compliance tools and financial resources. Rawls provided examples of possible non-compliance related to manufacturers, sellers and inspectors, including lack of proper documentation, selling paint labeled ‘for industrial use only’ to consumers for household use, and non-compliant leaded paint being allowed through customs points, offering potential solutions such as higher penalties, increased resources for enforcement and minimizing exemptions.

The ensuing discussion addressed, inter alia, the role of academia and research, including legal clinics at law schools in Africa and other parts of the world to help adapt the Model Law to local legal systems/regulatory structures, and research on lead paint levels affecting IQ changes. Discussion also revolved around how to address issues falling outside the scope of the Model Law, including: disposal of non-compliant paint, which could be addressed by existing waste management laws; safe lead paint remediation, with panelists offering to share relevant guidance developed in the US; and compensation to those harmed by lead paint.

Among other issues, participants also addressed: particular challenges facing smaller manufacturers regarding lack of knowledge to reformulate paint; the ability of countries without accredited labs to test lead paint to use labs in other parts of the world; and a UNEP project implemented through the Lead Paint Alliance that provides free expertise and legal advice to countries.

Emphasizing that more needs to be done to educate the public, panelists highlighted, among other initiatives, IPEN’s efforts on to raise awareness and promote lobbying by communities to get lead paint laws passed, and International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, led by the Lead Paint Alliance. A working paper will be drafted summarizing the topics discussed during the webinars.

Founded in 1989, INECE focuses on achieving compliance with environmental law through compliance promotion and enforcement strategies, including administrative, civil, criminal and judicial enforcement. [Model Law and Guidance for Regulating Lead Paint] [Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint] [INECE Website] [INECE Guest Article for SDG Knowledge Hub on Lead Paint Laws Compliance Conversations]