Paints containing lead and lead contaminated dust have been identified as a major source of childhood lead poisoning, Mr Emmanuel Odjam-Akumatey, Executive Director of Ecological Restorations, a non-governmental organization stated at a press conference to kick start activities to mark the Action week in Ghana.
It is essential for our society to respond to this global challenge and make the phase out of lead paint a top public health priority.
“We must act with urgency as the health of our children can be permanently and irreversibly damaged even at the very low exposure to lead,” he said.
The 2015 International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action, being marked from October 25 to 31, is on the general theme: “Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future,” and will focus on the importance of the many ways parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead and prevent its serious health effects.
Mr Odjam-Akumatey, who is leading a public interest group, promoting chemical safety and zero waste, called on civil society, political entities and public and the private sector operators to join the crusade to eliminate lead-containing paint, a preventable source of childhood lead exposure.
He noted that, lead poisoning is a serious child health concern throughout the world, as children are most likely to be exposed to lead from automobile fumes, where leaded gasoline is still used and also from ingestion of flakes and dust from decaying lead-based paint.
“This affects children’s brain development and their measurable level of intelligence (IQ),” he said.
He said after lead enters the body, it is distributed to organs such as the kidneys, liver and bones. “The body stores lead in the teeth and bones where it accumulates over time. Undernourished children are more susceptible to lead because their bodies absorb more lead if other nutrients, such as calcium, are lacking”.
Mr George Ortsin, National Coordinator, GEF Small Grants Programme of UNDP, called for concerted efforts by Ghana to meet the 2020 deadline by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to eliminate lead paint.
“While banned and eliminated from paint in most high income countries like US decades ago, paints containing huge amounts of lead continue to be widely sold in many developing countries, including Ghana,” Mr Ortsin stated during the press conference.
He said government needs to adopt holistic measures, in collaboration with the paint industry and civil society for a regulatory framework that will eventually phase out lead in paint in tune with the global consensus to get rid of such paints.
The WHO considers lead as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern,” warning that “there is no safe level of exposure to lead”.
The WHO acknowledges that lead poisoning is entirely preventable, yet lead exposure is estimated to account for 0.6 per cent of the global burden of disease, with the highest burden in developing regions.
Childhood lead exposure is estimated to contribute to about 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year.
Even though there is wide recognition of this problem and many countries have taken action, exposure to lead, particularly in childhood, remains of the key concerns to health care providers and public health officials worldwide, the WHO has noted.