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Lead in paint

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About Lead in paint

Lead can be present at high levels in paint, especially in the over 100 countries that still allow the manufacture, import and sale of paints containing lead. 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 manufacturing. In paint, lead compounds can be added 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 the paint ages it starts to decay, and can fragment into flakes and dust that contaminate the environment and 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 act now by introducing and enforcing laws that either ban or restrict the use of lead in paint. This is more cost-effective than after-the-fact efforts to remediate homes and deal with the health consequences of lead exposure. In addition, eliminating lead paint now brings future economic benefits in terms of preventing losses due to reduced productivity and avoiding the costs of the health impacts of lead .

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 at its third to fourth sessions continued to affirm the goal of eliminating  lead paint and in 2011 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 chaired by the US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA), aims to  support the introduction of laws on phasing out the manufacture, import and sale of paints containing lead and eventually to eliminate the risks from such 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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Lead Paint Factsheet
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Lead Paint Factsheet

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  • Factsheets and brochures
    Lead Paint Factsheet

    Factsheets and brochures

    Lead Paint Factsheet

    This factsheet presents the work of UNEP and the Lead Paint Alliance. The document also highlights its impacts and the SAICM GEF project Lead in paint component.

  • Infographic
    Interactive visualisation of the status of lead paint laws

    Infographic

    Interactive visualisation of the status of lead paint laws

    The interactive map shows the status of national lead paint laws as provided by governments to UNEP and WHO, Secretariat of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint. Information on an...

  • Factsheets and brochures
    Suggested Steps for Establishing a Lead Paint Law

    Factsheets and brochures

    Suggested Steps for Establishing a Lead Paint Law

    This fact sheet outlines steps that have been helpful in countries that have adopted lead paint laws. The steps are not necessarily sequential or needed in every country.

  • Policy document
    Model Law and Guidance for Regulating Lead Paint

    Policy document

    Model Law and Guidance for Regulating Lead Paint

    UN Environment, in cooperation with World Health Organization, United States Environment Protection Agency and other partners, has developed a model law and guidance in order to assist countries in...

  • Factsheets and brochures
    Clariant playing a leading role in supporting the coatings industry to phase out lead in paints

    Factsheets and brochures

    Clariant playing a leading role in supporting the coatings industry to phase out lead in paints

    As one of the first companies to completely end the production, and supply, of lead-based pigments in the mid-1980’s (Hoechst AG – now Clariant), Clariant supported the Global Alliance to eliminate lead paint and, through regulatory and legal measures, accelerate progress towards its global phase out.

  • Project document
    National Baseline Survey of Paint Market in Peru

    Project document

    National Baseline Survey of Paint Market in Peru

    United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have established the joint initiative Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (Lead Paint Alliance) to prevent...

  • Project document
    Baseline Information for the Lead Paint Country Situation in Nigeria

    Project document

    Baseline Information for the Lead Paint Country Situation in Nigeria

    Lead in Nigerian paints is another route of lead into the environment and exposure can be caused as a result of inhalation or ingestion especially in children. In 2008, SRADeV Nigeria under the...

  • Project document
    Market Analysis of the paint industry in Indonesia (English / Bahasa)

    Project document

    Market Analysis of the paint industry in Indonesia (English / Bahasa)

    Elimination of Lead in Paint in Indonesia - Baseline Information - Indonesia’s paint marketIndonesia holds the first position as the biggest market in paint and coating in South East Asia with the...

  • Project document
    Baseline paint market study in Ecuador (English / Spanish)

    Project document

    Baseline paint market study in Ecuador (English / Spanish)

    The World Health Organization (WHO) with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has launched the initiative called "Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint" whose goal is to phase-out the...

  • Project document
    Market Analysis of the Coating Industry in China

    Project document

    Market Analysis of the Coating Industry in China

    China is a major producer of paints which supplies a considerable share of paints in the world. Key paint production hot spots were identified as Guangdong, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Hunan and Shandong...

  • Community of practice summary of discussions
    Awareness raising materials for lead in paint elimination

    Community of practice summary of discussions

    Awareness raising materials for lead in paint elimination

    The Secretariat of the Strategic Approach to Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) are launching a new Community of Practice (CoP) on Lead in Paint to bring representatives from different sectors together and to create a learning network around issues related to the elimination of Lead Paint. This is a summary of the discussion on Awareness raising materials for lead in paint elimination, which took place on 23 September 2020.Sara BroschéSara Brosché

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