New UNEP Study Finds High Lead Levels in Paints Around the World
Despite bans on lead in household paint in most Western countries, a new study from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) finds that the majority of paints tested in nine geographically diverse developing countries would not met regulatory standards established in most highly industrialized countries and, in some cases, contain astonishingly high and dangerous levels of lead. New IPEN data from six Asian countries reveals similar results, but also show that paint companies with the largest market share in those countries have largely shifted to unleaded products in recent years.
“Asian countries are responding to earlier testing conducted by IPEN that showed high levels of lead,” said Sara Brosche, IPEN project manager, IPEN Asian Lead Elimination Project. IPEN is a global network of health and environmental nongovernmental organizations working to eliminate toxins and encourage chemical safety. IPEN has collected and analyzed decorative paints in more than 30 developing countries and countries with economies in transition.
The UNEP report analyzed enamel decorative paints from nine countries: Argentina, Azerbaijan, Chile, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Tunisia, and Uruguay. The new Asian studies comes from: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand and is a follow-up to earlier studies conducted by IPEN and its partners starting in 2007 as a part of ongoing national lead paint elimination campaigns.
The UNEP report found that though countries with regulatory frameworks for lead in paint generally exhibited lower lead paint levels, more than half of the decorative paint samples analyzed in five of the nine countries had lead content greater than 600 ppm lead. In each of the other seven countries, two or more of the samples of enamel decorative paints had dangerously high lead content greater than 10,000 ppm, some as high as 99,000 ppm lead.
A similar analysis of lead in paint from six Asian countries mirrored these findings, with one important exception. In general, companies with the largest market share in each of the Asian countries, where there was an analysis of paint, have responded to growing public awareness and concern and have reduced lead levels to below 90 ppm. Though the majority of paints included in the studies still contain high lead levels, they are largely being produced by smaller and medium-sized paint companies.
IPEN coordinated data collection for both the UNEP and Asian studies and collaborated with UNEP in the preparation of the nine-country report and the formulation of its national findings and recommendations.
IPEN released Asian data as a part of its worldwide activities during International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action, Oct 20 -26, 2013. In addition to the Asia data, IPEN participating organizations also released new reports on lead in paint in Russia and Paraguay and conducted lead awareness activities in a total of more than 20 countries.
Lead in household paints has been regulated in most highly industrial countries for more than 40 years.
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 billion or 4.03% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
IPEN. IPEN is a leading global organization of 700 nongovernmental organizations from 116 countries working to protect human health and the environment from harms caused by toxic chemical exposure.