• Introduction
  • Understanding the problem
  • Identify the market
  • Take action
  • References
  • Contact us

lead free kidsThis toolkit was developed by a group of partners of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (Lead Paint Alliance), including industry, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations and government representatives. It is designed to provide information to government officials who are interested in establishing legal limits for lead in paints in their countries. However, all interested stakeholders wishing to understand the issue and galvanize action are welcome to use the information as well.

Lead poisoning from lead in paint is preventable and there are cost-effective, technically feasible alternatives to lead in paint. This toolkit, through the modules below, will provide information on why lead is a public health and environmental concern, explain current testing methods and describe the existing market. It will also give insight into what other countries have done regarding restrictions on lead use in paint.

Over the years, lead use in paint in particular, has declined dramatically as the health and environmental risks have become clear. However, in many countries, lead is still used in paints as pigments, driers, catalysts and for corrosion resistance. This module explains why lead is used in paint, the contribution of different ingredients to the overall content of lead in paint, the different kinds of paint that may contain lead, and why lead paint is a problem.

Lead Exposure and Risk of Adverse Health and Environmental Effects

''Lead is a cumulative toxicant that has harmful effects on multiple body systems. It also causes adverse effects on the environment. No safe level of exposure to lead has been identified.

This section is made up of three modules. The first module provides key information on the health hazards and impacts of lead to both an individual and society. The module also provides information on how people can become exposed to lead from paint, the short and long term health effects of lead, and identifies the segments of the population that are particularly vulnerable to exposure and toxicity. The second module describes the environmental impact of lead and its negative effects on other organisms. The third module describes the estimated economic costs of lead exposure at both regional and national level. The module provides a link to a website where information on individual countries can be found.

Methods for Measuring Lead in Blood and Paint

In order to prevent exposure to lead from paint it is necessary to determine the extent of the problem and then to monitor the success of prevention and control measures.

To help provide an understanding of these issues, this section provides information in four modules. The first module describes how to select the best method for measuring lead concentrations in blood. The second module outlines different methods for measuring lead in paint and the reasons that one method might be chosen over another. It also describes how to carry out a study to determine the lead content in paint on the local market. The third module describes methods for investigating the prevalence of lead exposure in a community, for example,  to determine if there is a population exposed to lead paint. This is complemented by the fourth module, which describes methods for carrying out an environmental investigation of lead contamination.

The Paint Market

In this module, the International Paint and Printing Ink Council (IPPIC) offers its support for governments seeking to establish restrictions on lead use in decorative paint. The module provides available data on the global paint market, including production statistics, and other insights on the nature and extent of decorative paints that may contain added lead.

Alternatives to Lead in Paint

Alternatives to lead use in paint are widely available. Moreover, the cost of eliminating the use of lead in paint is known to be low, with a number of small, medium-sized and large manufacturers already successfully reformulating their products. This module provides an overview of existing alternative products and associated sales prices in various markets.

Lead Paint in Developing Countries

''Many industrialized countries have enacted laws, regulations, or mandatory standards that prohibit the manufacture, import, sale, or use of lead paints. However, lead-containing paints are still widely used and unregulated in many developing countries. This module presents a snapshot of the status of lead paint legislation around the world and provides examples of the levels of lead in paints found in a number of these countries.


Small- and Medium sized Manufacturers

Although alternatives to lead paint are available, a number of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) face obstacles in reformulating their paints. This module will discuss the role of, and motivations and challenges faced by this part of the industry. It also discusses how governments can support SMEs in their efforts to remove lead in paint.

Case Studies on Existing Lead Paint Laws

Many countries have enacted laws or regulations to control the manufacture, use and sale of paints with lead. These case studies are provided to demonstrate various perspectives from countries that have worked to prevent exposure to lead from paint.

Raising Awareness

''Raising and maintaining awareness about the hazards of lead is important to stimulate action by governments, enterprises and others. It also informs individuals about how to protect themselves and their families from lead exposure. This module provides information about the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action and how any organization can plan and organize a lead-awareness campaign. It also provides examples of lead poisoning prevention campaign materials and activities.


Establishing Lead Paint Laws

Once your government is ready to take action use this module, (provided by the UN Environmental Programme, Division of Law and Conventions) as a framework for establishing legal limits on lead in paint. It discusses (placeholder)

Module A: Contributed by the World Health Organization (WHO)

Module B.i: Contributed by WHO

Additional sources

Module B.ii: Contributed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment)

  • UNEP. Final review of scientific information on lead (2010).
  • UNEP, Elements of a National Legal and Regulatory Framework for the Elimination of the Use of Lead in New Decorative Paint

Module B.iii: Contributed by New York University School of Medicine

Module C.i: Contributed by WHO

Additional sources 

Sample collection


Module C.ii: Contributed by WHO

Additional source

Module C.iii: Contributed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC)

Additional sources

Module C.iv: Contributed by US CDC

Additional sources

Module D: Contributed by the International Paint and Printing Inks Council (IPPIC)

  • Originally presented at the GAELP Workshop and Third Meeting in New Delhi, September 2014
  • Updated and expanded for inclusion in the UNEP "Toolbox" for Governments. August 2015

Module E: Contributed by IPEN

Module F: Contributed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment)

Module G: Contributed by IPEN

Module H.i: Contributed by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment and the German Federal Environment Agency

Module H.ii: Contributed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Module H.iii: Contributed by the Uruguay National Environment Directorate (DINAMA) and the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores

Module H.iv: Contributed by the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Module I: Contributed by WHO

Module J: Contributed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment)

  • UNEP, Elements of a National Legal and Regulatory Framework for the Elimination of the Use of Lead in New Decorative Paint

Lead Paint Alliance

The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (Lead Paint Alliance) is a voluntary partnership established to help achieve international goals to prevent children's exposure to lead paint and to minimize occupational exposures to lead paint.

To learn more about the Lead Paint Alliance visit: UN Environment Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint or WHO International Programme on Chemical Safety

For questions regarding health issues email: noleadinpaint[at]who.int
For questions regarding environmental issues email: lead-cadmiumchemicals[at]un.org