An update published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) highlights national efforts to limit and eliminate lead paint. No level of lead exposure is considered safe, and even relatively low exposure levels can cause serious and irreversible neurological damage. The 2020 ‘Update on the Global Status of Legal Limits on Lead in Paint’ reports that, as of 31 December 2020, 79 countries (41% of all countries) had legally binding controls to limit the production, import, and sale of lead paints. Another 13% (26 countries) were in the process of drafting laws.
In 2020: Colombia, Lebanon, and Viet Nam established new lead paint laws; China updated an existing law; and the World Health Organization (WHO) updated the status of Ecuador, Pakistan, and Qatar in its database to reflect existing laws.
The update notes that lead can permanently damage the brain and nervous system, resulting in decreased IQ and increased behavioral problems. It can also cause anemia, increase the risk of kidney damage and hypertension, and impair reproductive functions. Young children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable. The negative impacts on children’s developing brains also have significant economic costs, including health care costs, productivity losses, and intellectual disability. While the cost of removing existing decorative lead paint from surfaces in homes, schools and other buildings can be substantial, the economic cost is low for eliminating the use of lead compounds in new decorative paints.
SDG, 18 March 2021