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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 Law Compliance and Enforcement Guidance
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Lead Paint Law Compliance and Enforcement Guidance

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  • Lead Paint Law Compliance and Enforcement Guidance

    DOCUMENT FOR PUBLIC CONSULTATIONThis Guidance outlines actions governments can take to foster compliance with lead paint laws. It also includes actions companies can take to document compliance....

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    Public Consultation: Lead Paint Law Compliance and Enforcement Guidance

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    Public Consultation: Lead Paint Law Compliance and Enforcement Guidance

    Under the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, the United Nations Environment Programme has developed draft Lead Paint Law Compliance and Enforcement Guidance in collaboration with a working...

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    Lead Paint Testing: Case Studies of Impact

    Community of practice summary of discussions

    Lead Paint Testing: Case Studies of Impact

    The Secretariat of the Strategic Approach to Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) have established a 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 Lead Paint Testing: Case Studies of Impact, which took place on 9 March 2022.

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    Community of Practice on Lead in Paint - 2021 Digest Compliation

    Community of practice summary of discussions

    Community of Practice on Lead in Paint - 2021 Digest Compliation

    The Secretariat of the Strategic Approach to Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) have established a Community of Practice (CoP) on Lead in Paint to bring...

  • Community of practice summary of discussions
    Is there lead in my paint? All about testing and labs

    Community of practice summary of discussions

    Is there lead in my paint? All about testing and labs

    The Secretariat of the Strategic Approach to Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) have established a 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 Is there lead in my paint? All about testing and labs, which took place on 8 December 2021.

  • Community of practice summary of discussions
    Making the case: raising awareness about importance of lead paint laws

    Community of practice summary of discussions

    Making the case: raising awareness about importance of lead paint laws

    The Secretariat of the Strategic Approach to Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) have established a 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 Making the case: raising awareness about importance of lead paint laws, which took place on 14 September 2021.

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    UNEP FI Report Explores Financing for Green Building

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    Week of Action Aims to Accelerate Global Phase Out of Lead Paint

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    Week of Action Aims to Accelerate Global Phase Out of Lead Paint

    The week is taking place several months after the UN Environment Programme announced that the use of lead in petrol gas had ended around the world. Governments, civil society organizations, health partners, industry, and others are encouraged to organize campaigns during this week of action. ILPPW aims to: raise awareness about the health impacts of lead exposure; highlight efforts to prevent exposure, particularly in children; and spur further action to eliminate lead paint through regulatory action at the country level. 

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    Largest Source of Lead Pollution Phased Out in All Countries

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    Largest Source of Lead Pollution Phased Out in All Countries

    Leaded petrol was the world’s largest source of lead pollution. UNEP announced that its use has ended around the world, following a multistakeholder campaign that began in 2002.  UNEP stresses that there is still an urgent need to stop lead pollution from paints, batteries, and household items. 

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    Infographic on Lead Paint Laboratory Database

    Infographic

    Infographic on Lead Paint Laboratory Database

    UNEP has created a database of laboratories undertaking lead paint testing, to to provide information on national laboratory capacity in the context of implementing limits on lead content in paint...

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    Future Policy Award 2021: Philippines - Lead in Paint

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    Future Policy Award 2021: Philippines - Lead in Paint

    Lead is a cumulative toxic element particularly harmful to young children and pregnant women. Lead can be present at high levels in paint and is a major health concern specially in low and middle...

  • Database
    Lead in paint laboratory database

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    Lead in paint laboratory database

    The Lead in Paint Laboratory Database lists laboratories from all UN regions capable of identifying and quantifying lead in paint samples.It is established by UNEP in close cooperation with the...

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