Frequently asked questions

Why is lead dangerous for human health?

The links between lead in paint and adverse health effects among exposed children and adults are well established.  Lead is a toxic metal that can cause serious impacts on human health, including permanent brain and nervous system damage, problems with kidney function, and blood and reproductive damage. As paint deteriorates over time, children may inhale or ingest lead through household dust, paint chips or contaminated soil. Children who suffer from lead poisoning will feel its permanent impacts on their health throughout their lives

Who is most vulnerable to lead exposure?

The links between lead in paint and adverse health effects among exposed children and adults are well established. Children under 6 years of age and pregnant women whose developing fetus can be exposed are especially vulnerable. The adverse health effects of lead for humans have been known for many years. These can include: sensory, motor, cognitive and behavioral impacts, including learning disabilities; attention deficits; disorders in a child’s coordination, visual, spatial and language skills, and anemia. Recent evidence has documented adverse health effects at very low blood lead levels, and no safe blood lead level for children has been identified.

How is lead released into the environment?

Lead can be released into the environment during the manufacture of new paint, whenever lead paint on walls deteriorates or is disturbed, and during the disposal of lead paint wastes from the manufacturing process and from building materials covered with lead paint.  Like all metals, lead is persistent in the environment, and releases of lead into the environment can remain indefinitely as a potential source of human exposure.

Why is lead added to paint?

Lead or lead compounds may have been added by the manufacturer to give paint its color, to allow the paint to reduce corrosion on metal surfaces, or to help the paint dry more quickly. Lead compounds may also be present in other coatings such as varnishes, lacquers, stains, enamels, glazes or primers. However, alternatives to lead exist that are currently available on the market to paint manufacturers.

What is the economic impact of environmental degradation and human health effects from lead?

The direct and indirect economic costs from using lead paint can include significant health care costs and productivity losses. The World Health Organization has estimated that exposure to lead is responsible for 0.6 percent of the global burden of disease, with some 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disability every year.  A recent study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal in September 2013 estimated the economic burden of childhood lead poisoning in Asia to be nearly $700 billion due to IQ points lost as a result of exposure to lead. By contrast, the economic cost of eliminating the use of lead in many paints is known to be low, with a number of manufacturers already successfully reformulating products that avoid the intentional addition of lead.  Lead poisoning from paint is entirely preventable, and prevention is much easier and less costly than treatment.