WHO says Member States should work to get the lead out of paint

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Get the lead out of paint, says World Health Organization

The World Health Organization is taking a stand on lead that is found in paint and asking that member states help to get the toxin out of paints. Lead that lingers in the environment, found in homes built and painted before 1960 and is still used on roadways can linger in the environment and poison kids for years. Many paints still contain lead.

We've known for years that lead can lead to health problems including learning and other intellectual disabilities in children.

How lead can poison children

Toys, furniture and other products contain lead. Paint from old homes, chipping and peeling can find its way into the soil. When children play outdoors they can easily ingest lead from the soil.

The WHO warns that “Mouthing lead-painted toys and other objects also exposes young children to lead. The sweet taste of lead paint means that some children even pick off and swallow small chips of paint” that the organization says can have “devastating” health consequences.

Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health and Environment said in a press release that lead poisoning in children is a global problem, but it can be stopped completely by restricting the production and use of lead paint that is a major contributor to 143,000 deaths each year.

So far 30 countries have phased out lead paint. The goal of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, co-led by WHO and UNEP, wants to see 70 countries do the same by 2015.

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High levels of lead can lead to coma and death. Children that survive suffer from learning and behavior problems.

Symptoms of lead poisoning

Symptoms of lead poisoning in children at lower levels that were once considered safe include low IQ, difficulty paying attention and antisocial behavior – none of which can be reversed.

Adults with lead poisoning can suffer kidney damage and hypertension.

Lead is one of ten chemicals identified by the WHO that is a major public health concern. It’s put in pain to speed drying and increase durability in addition to decreasing corrosion.

The WHO report says getting the lead out of paint requires Member State action to protect the health of women of child-bearing age, children and workers. Consumers can look for water-based paints as an alternative to toxic lead based options.


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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons