01 Jan 1970 News Chemicals & waste

A week to champion social and political commitment against lead poisoning

  • Globally, approximately 600,000 children develop intellectual disabilities every year because of exposure to lead;
  • Africa’s economic burden of childhood lead exposure stands at $134.7 billion economic loss per year;
  • In 2008, 18 children died from lead poisoning in Thiaroye-sur-Mer, Senegal.

Nairobi, 24 October 2017 - This year’s International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (ILPPW) will take place 22-28 October 2017. Championed by the Lead Paint Alliance, a global partnership of governments and other stakeholders convened by UN Environment and WHO, the purpose of this week is to raise awareness and promote actions to address the human health effects of lead exposure, especially for children.

Several African countries have been found to experience ongoing lead exposure from multiple sources in their homes, schools and workplaces. Recent studies indicate the existence of paint, in some instances with extremely high lead concentrations in a range of African countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, and Ghana. The links between lead in paint and adverse health effects among exposed children and adults are well established. Additionally, the detrimental health, social and educational effects of lead exposure exerts an enormous economic cost on African economies.

“Heavy metals such as lead, contribute to unintentional poisonings at home and in the workplace. Unintentional poisoning is estimated to cause 193 000 deaths annually with the major part being from preventable chemical exposures like exposure coming from lead in paint,” said Abdouraman Bary, Chemicals and Waste, Regional Subprogramme Coordinator for Africa.

“Despite the fact that most African countries do not apply legislative controls on lead, efforts are being made to improve cooperation in setting limits for the use of lead in paint with a view to phasing it out by 2020 throughout the continent” , he added. An East African standard on lead in paint applicable to five East African Community (EAC) countries is currently being developed. The Board of the Kenya Bureau of Standards has already approved the 90 ppm total lead limit standard. Other countries from the East Africa Community (Ethiopia and Tanzania), are in fact, currently working to finalize regulation to restrict the use of lead in paint.

In 2014, Resolution 1/5 of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) at its first session recognized the significant risks to human health and the environment arising from releases of lead and cadmium into the environment. During its second session, the Assembly called upon UN Environment to cooperate with Governments, with the private sector, and with other non-governmental organizations to advance the work on lead and cadmium.

In preparation for the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA3), set to take place from 4 to 6 December 2017, governments, businesses and civil society have the opportunity to make voluntary commitments to help end the pollution of our air, land, waterways, and oceans, and to safely manage chemicals and waste.

About The UN Environment Assembly:

The UN Environment Assembly, the world's highest-level decision-making body on the environment, will gather in Nairobi, Kenya, from 4-6 December 2017 under the overarching theme of pollution.

For more information, please contact: Mohamed Atani, Regional Information Officer for Africa. Email: [email protected] – Tel: +254 727531253.