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Phasing out lead paint in the African Region: rationale, techniques and experiences

Lead paint is an important source of lead exposure to children when the paint is used in homes, schools and on toys and playground equipment. It is also a source of occupational exposure to lead when the paint is manufactured and when paint is stripped using abrasive methods. Lead is a multisystem toxicant and no safe level of exposure has been identified. Exposure to even low levels of lead in childhood can impair cognitive and behavioural development and result in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ) and increased risk of poor educational attainment and antisocial behaviour. The long-term consequences of lead exposure also include increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. These impacts have both personal costs and societal costs.

Lead paint has been banned in high-income countries for several decades. However, it is still available in many African countries. From information provided to WHO, as of 31 August 2018, only six countries in the region have laws already in place, or about to be enacted, that restrict the use of lead in paint. UN Environment and WHO jointly lead the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (the Lead Paint Alliance), which has set the target that by 2020 all countries should have in place legally binding controls on lead paint, effectively banning the manufacture, import, sale and use of lead paint. Clearly there is still much to be done in the African region to achieve that target.