Written by Anthony Aisi
Most major paint companies in Kenya sell paint for household use containing unsafe levels of lead, according to the first study of lead in decorative paint in Kenya was released on Tuesday, September. The research done on local based paints reveals that one or more paint sample from each of the brands tested contained high lead content - much higher than internationally recognized limits for lead in paint.
The testing effort was organized and conducted by Kenyan NGO, iLima and supported by IPEN, an international NGO network of health and environmental organizations from all regions of the world working together for a toxics-free future.
"This is a tragedy for both the child and his or her family. But it is also a tragedy for our country. When national child lead exposure is sufficiently widespread to decrease average intelligence and school performance, the ability of the country as a whole to succeed and advance is impaired. We increase the number of children who do poorly in school and who may need help later in life. And we reduce the country’s future intellectual, business and political leadership potential, widening the gap between our country and others," Statement by Cecelia Nganga, executive director, iLima at the launch of the report.
The report indicates, the highest lead concentration found in any of the Kenyan paints tested was 69,000 ppm. This is 750 times higher than the maximum lead content that would be allowed in a house paint sold in the United States.
"This is cause for serious concern because when lead paint is used in homes or other areas frequented by children, it can result in lead exposure and serious health risks. The painted surface deteriorates with time or when disturbed, and lead from the paint then contaminates household dust and soils surrounding the home. Children ingest lead from dusts and soils during normal hand to mouth behavior. Exposure to even small amounts of lead can reduce the child's intelligence and school performance; and can also cause increased violent behavior," Cecilia commented.
“New, lead, decorative house paints, generally, are not an important source of lead exposure to children and home residents when they are still in the can or when they are being applied. But, over time, as painted surfaces age and deteriorate, the lead from the paint begins to contaminate household dust and soils surrounding the home. Children – especially children under 6 years of age – ingest these dusts and soils – and the lead they contain – during normal hand to mouth behavior," the report emphasize
In 2009, an International Conference on Chemicals Management - in which the Government of Kenya was a participant - agreed by consensus to identify lead in paint as an international priority issue of concern.
In response to this, in 2010, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) jointly initiated a global effort to eliminate the use of lead compounds in paints in order to protect public health and the environment called the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP).
Evidence of reduced intelligence caused by childhood exposure to lead has led the World Health Organization to list "lead caused mental retardation" as a recognized disease.
Surprisingly, WHO lists it as one of the top ten diseases whose health burden among children is due to modifiable environmental factors.
The report recommends Kenyan Government to implement National regulatory framework in lead in the paint industries to reduce in capability of our country future leaders, Business persons and children.