31 Oct 2017 Story Chemicals & waste

Taking action to stop lead poisoning

In 2015, nearly half a million people around the world died from exposure to lead – that’s more than were killed by malaria.

The health effects of lead exposure are well documented – from intellectual disability to deafness to kidney failure – but lead-based paints are still available in dozens of countries around the world. Indeed, more than one third of countries do not yet regulate the use of lead paints.

Lead is especially dangerous to children's developing brains – shortening their attention spans, triggering behaviour problems, and impairing their ability to learn for the rest of their lives. These health impacts have significant economic costs, especially in the developing world, where lead exposure is highest.

The good news is that there are safe and affordable alternatives to lead-based paints. UN Environment is working together with the World Health Organization through the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paint to prevent exposure to lead, while promoting the phase-out of paints containing lead. And countries like Cameroon are already making significant progress.



This year’s international lead poisoning prevention week takes place from 22-28 October.

Pollution is the theme of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly, which is being held in Nairobi from 4-6 December. Sign the pledge and help us #BeatPollution in all its forms.


© World Health Organization