23 Nov 2016 News Chemicals & waste

Harmonised effort to limit lead in paint in Africa

Dar es Salam, Tanzania - Officials from key agencies and regulatory bodies in the East African region met recently and agreed to work with other trading blocks in Africa, to establish and harmonise a limit to lead in paint in the region, which has over the years cost the continent billions of dollars in economic losses, ahead of the 2020 legal limit deadline.

During a workshop recently organized by UN Environment, and The Lead Paint Alliance - a partnership of governments and stakeholders convened by UN Environment and the World Health Organization (WHO) at the Tanzania Bureau of Standards, officials deliberated on how to harmonize standards to regulate the total lead content in paint to 90 parts per million (ppm).

According to a 2015 study, childhood exposure to lead has an economic impact on national economies in all low and middle income countries. Africa’s economic burden of childhood lead exposure stands at $134.7 billion economic loss per year.

While facilitating the workshop in Tanzania, UN Environment’s Senior Programme Officer Mr. Eisaku Toda, emphasized on the need to promote cooperation and harmonisation to develop regulations and standards on lead in paint, to protect human health and the environment in the East African Region.

“The overall objective is to advance understanding, commitment and actions towards the development of national and regional regulations and standards on a total lead content limit of 90ppm for all paints in East Africa.” Said Mr. Toda.

The East African Community recently developed regional paint standards limiting lead content, applicable to six East African countries. Tanzania and Kenya are currently working on national standards. Ethiopia is working on a regulation to limit lead in paint. The workshop commended these initiatives and encouraged governments to move further.

The current East African standard stands at 100 ppm of soluble lead in paint. Similar initiatives exist in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Soluble lead measures only a small part of the lead that can be taken up by human body. Best regulatory practice to ban the use of lead in paint is 90 ppm total lead.

Tanzania and Kenya agreed to lead the regional efforts to achieve this best practice through the East African Standards. The workshop also agreed to extend these regulatory efforts throughout Africa through the Africa-wide free trade initiative.

For more information, please contact: Mohamed Atani, Regional Information Officer at: Mohamed.atani [at] unep.org +254727531253.