Tanzania, East Africa strive to phase out lead in paints

East African countries have been urged to critically address the issue of lead in paints which has adverse effects economically and on human health.

The Tanzania Bureau of Standards Acting Director General, Mrs. Edna Ndumbaro, made the remark recently in Dar es Salaam, during the opening of a two day East African Workshop on the development of national and regional regulations and standard on lead in paints.

Mrs Ndumbaro said lead is a cumulative toxicant particularly hazardous to young children and pregnant women and that no safe level of lead exposure has been established, therefore it is high time for developing countries to work on it.

“Lead in paints is a major route of lead exposure, especially for children and is still widely available in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, hence need for special attention,” she insisted.

She commended the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for their commitment towards the global initiatives on elimination of lead in paints as well as their participation in this regional workshop.

“This is a great forum where you will share experience and discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the campaign towards the elimination of lead in paints by 2020,” she commented.

In his presentation, the United Nations Environment Programme Senior Progamme Officer, Chemicals and Waste Branch Division of Technology Industry, Mr. Eisaku Toda said on pregnant women, pregnancy mobilizes lead stored in bone, releasing it back into blood where it can be circulated to maternal tissues and the fetus.

Other effects include increased risk of hypertension during pregnancy and reduce fetal growth.

Mr. Toda said in order to rescue the situation in December 2015 the East Africa Sub-regional Workshop was convened in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, whereby Government officials, experts from USA and stakeholders from 15 African countries namely Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia attended the meeting.

He further said during the meeting they came into an agreement that by 2020 all countries should have adopted legally binding laws, regulations, standards and/or procedures to control the production, import, export, sale and use of lead paints with special attention to the elimination of lead decorative paints and lead paints for other applications most likely to contribute to childhood lead exposure.

Regarding the Action Plan 2015-2016, Mr. Toda said among other things it encourages governments in countries where legal limits are not currently in place to establish and enforce national legal limits on lead in paint, with special attention to the elimination of lead decorative paints and lead paints for other applications most likely to contribute to childhood lead exposure.

Also the action plan encourages industry activities to voluntarily stop the manufacture and sale of lead paint, focusing on residential and decorative paints containing lead additives in countries where legal limits are not currently in place.

Furthermore it sensitize increased awareness of the health and environmental risks posed by lead paint, to help prompt actions by governments and manufacturers to stop the production and sale of lead paints.

Ms Angela Bandemehr, from the United States Environmental Protection Agency said a recent report developed by UNEP in partnership with World Resources Institute highlights the status of lead regulations around the world.

She said the report stipulates that over the years, legal restrictions on lead have successfully decreased the use of lead in fuel, plumbing and other products and processes. These restrictions have effectively reduced the level of lead exposure in human populations.

However, she said paints containing lead are still widely manufactured and purchased in many countries across the world.

She further said the report analyses the importance of legislation and regulations which are still needed in many developing countries around the world to reduce exposure to lead.

Ms. Bandemehr also said report highlights the need for lead paint laws to protect children and workers in the developing world and regardless of the limits, the report further looks towards enforcement on manufacture, use and trade to phase-out lead in paint.

The workshop was co-hosted by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and the United Nations Environment Programme and attended by participants from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Africa, China and the United States of America.