Paints with dangerous lead levels widely sold in Nigeria
A new report, Global Lead Paint Report, released by a global network of health and environmental non-governmental organizations, International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), has found that many decorative paints sold in over 40 low and middle income countries contain dangerous levels of lead, sometimes in direct violation of national regulation.
Out of the 10 developing countries from where paint samples were collected and analysed for total lead contents, Nigeria paints showed highest percentage of samples containing more than 90 parts per million (ppm) of lead followed by Tanzania, Mexico, South Africa, Belarus, Senegal and values more than 600 ppm were even found (100per cent of the samples).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) calls lead paint “a major flashpoint” for children’s potential lead poisoning and says, “Since the phase-out of leaded petrol, lead paint is one of the largest sources of exposure to lead in children.” Children are exposed to lead, when painted surfaces deteriorate over time and contaminate household dust and soils.
Children, ages 0-6 years, engaging in normal hand-to-mouth behaviours are most at risk of damage to their intelligence and mental development from exposure to lead dust and soil.
When children are exposed to lead, it tends to decrease their performance in school and their lifelong productivity as part of the national labour force.
A recent study investigated the economic impact of childhood lead exposure on national economies and estimated a total cumulative loss of $977 billion international dollars per year for all low- and middle-income countries. The estimated economic loss in Africa is $134.7 or 4.03 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“The health impacts of lead exposure on young children’s brains are lifelong, irreversible and untreatable,” said Leslie Adogame, Executive Director, Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development – SRADev Nigeria.
“We are limiting our children and our nation’s future intellectual development even though safe and effective alternatives are already in use and widely available in Nigeria. We must reduce this critical source of lead exposure to young children.”
One of the study carried out in 2009 by SRADev Nigeria in collaboration with IPENon of new household paints sold in Lagos , found that many paints contained lead. All the 30 paint samples found lead in all 30 paint samples tested (100 per cent), which included 23 enamel paints and seven plastic paints. All samples had lead concentrations higher than the permitted lead levels for paints (that is far beyond the recommended limit of 90 ppm).
Adogame said: “Paint manufacturers, paint industry, trade associations and paint ingredient vendors in Nigeria should take voluntary action immediately to eliminate lead from all paints, with decorative and other paints used in and around homes and schools as a priority.”
“Ethical manufacturers need not wait for government controls before they act. National, regional and international paint industry trade associations should send clear and strong signals to their members that now is the time to end all manufacture and sale of lead paints.
Nigeria was among more than 100 countries that endorsed a Global Partnership to Eliminate Lead from Paint at the 2nd International Conference on Chemicals Management in 2009.
Most highly industrial countries adopted laws or regulations to control the lead content of decorative paints—the paints used on the interiors and exteriors of homes, schools, and other child-occupied facilities—beginning in the 1970s and 1980s.