This year’s edition of lead poisoning prevention week will focus 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 will be taking 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.
The Albanian Institute of Public Health will be purchasing enamel paint at a market in the country’s capital Tirana and testing it for lead content before sharing results online and via the media. Meanwhile, Severn Trent Water in the UK will be issuing 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.
While most countries have eradicated the metal from petrol, lead paint remains an important source of exposure for children and workers in many states.
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.
As long as it is not ingested, lead paint is safe when intact. Yet over time it decays and fragments, contaminating the home environment. In such cases, it can potentially affect all human organ systems as it is easier to swallow – especially for young children who frequently play on the ground and put their hands in their mouths. No safe level of exposure to lead has been identified.
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, including customisable campaign materials, can be found by clicking here.
In order to view events already organised or to register your own, please click here.
For more information, please contact:
Isabelle Valentiny, Head of Communications, UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe, +41 79 251 82 36, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nada Osseiran, Communications Officer, Public Health and Environment Department, World Health Organisation, +41 22 7914475, email@example.com