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Lead poisoning prevention week targets paint

This year’s edition of lead poisoning prevention week focused on the aim of eliminating paint containing the harmful metal by 2020.


Between 25 and 31 October, events including art competitions and actions such as free blood tests took place across the globe to raise awareness on the health hazards of lead - particularly for young children - and to mobilise action to prevent lead exposure.


In Europe, the Albanian Institute of Public Health purchased enamel paint at a market in the country’s capital Tirana and tested it for lead content before sharing results online and via the media for example. Meanwhile, Severn Trent Water in the UK issued posters and using social media to raise awareness of lead pipes, of which many still exist in homes across the country.


“It may be shocking to think that the paint we buy to decorate our families’ houses or toys we give to our children can potentially be deadly, yet lead poisoning is easily preventable” said Jan Dusik, Director of UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe.


“By working together with health organisations, industry and others we can make a dramatic difference for those most vulnerable to lead poisoning in our societies,” he underlined.


Overall exposure to lead is estimated to contribute to about 600 000 new cases of intellectual disabilities among children every year, with the vast majority living in low and middle-income countries.


The metal is toxic even at very low exposure levels and can move between water, air and soil, which can change exposure patterns.


A recent survey by the WHO and UNEP on behalf of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint has found that more than 65 countries do not have legally binding controls on lead in paint. Meanwhile, market surveys have shown that paints containing large quantities of lead are on sale to the public in some of these countries.


Even in states with laws regulating the paint, the substance may have been used on surfaces in older homes and buildings when this was permitted, creating a long-term exposure problem – especially for young children who may ingest paint that has decayed and fragmented.


The annual week is initiated by the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint - a voluntary partnership including industry and citizen groups working to phase-out the manufacture and sale of lead in paint by 2020. The alliance is co-led by the World Health Organisation and UNEP.


More information on the week of action can be found by clicking here.


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