Civil society organizations Bio Vision Africa and Western Media for Environment and Conservation (WEMECO) are calling on National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to quickly draft and develop legislation and regulations that will ban the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, sale and use of paints that contain lead concentrations exceeding 90 ppm, the most restrictive standard in the world.
The organizations want NEMA to require paint companies to display sufficient information indicating toxic content on paint can labels and provide a warning on possible lead dust hazards when distributing painted surfaces.
"Paint companies that still produce lead paints should expeditiously stop the use of leaded paint ingredients in paint formulations. Paint companies that have shifted to non-lead paint production should get their products certified through independent, third party verification procedures to increase the customer’s ability to choose paints with no added lead," the two organization said in a joint statement.
They advised that the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) and the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) should routinely carry out assessment of lead paint from different outlets and factories.
The call from the two CSOs has come at a time when the world is marking the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action (ILPPWA). This year's commemoration kicked of on 24th and will end on 30 October under the theme “Working together for a world without lead paint”
The week is used to raise awareness and promote actions to address the human health effects of lead exposure, especially for children. During the week, governments, academia, industry and civil society promote efforts to prevent childhood lead poisoning, and specifically laws to eliminate lead in paint.
The term Lead paint is used to describe any paint to which one or more lead compounds have been added. The cut-off concentration for lead paint used in the report is 90 parts per million (ppm, dry weight of paint), the strictest legal limit enacted in the world today.
Civil Society has previously carried out studies to assess the levels of lead in paint that is produced in Uganda. Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.
Lead in the body is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones. It is stored in the teeth and bones, where it accumulates over time. Human exposure is usually assessed through the measurement of lead in blood.
Lead in bone is released into blood during pregnancy and becomes a source of exposure to the developing fetus. There is no level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects.
People can become exposed to lead through occupational and environmental sources – like inhalation of lead particles generated by burning materials containing lead, for example during smelting, recycling, stripping leaded paint and using leaded aviation fuel and ingestion of lead-contaminated dust, water (from leaded pipes) and food (from lead-glazed or lead-soldered containers).
“Bio Vision Africa and WEMECO call upon all stakeholders to come together and unite in promoting a strong policy that will eliminate lead paint in Uganda. Public health groups, consumer organizations and all other concerned entities to support the elimination of lead paint, and conduct activities to inform and protect children from lead exposure through lead paint, lead in dust and soil, and other sources of lead," the CSOs said.