We already know by now that lead poisoning is completely preventable, however thousands of people around the world still die every year from its harmful effects. What is lead? Lead is a dangerous metal that can cause irreversible damages to human body. Its widespread use in manufacturing of paint, cables, batteries puts contributes to its wide distribution and presents a serious problem. Even today, when good lead-free alternatives are available, many paint manufacturers still add lead in their products.

Lead paint is being used indoors and outdoors, in schools and other buildings, as paint for toys, furniture, playground equipment and other items that children come in contact with, as well as for road markings, painting bridges and other outdoor facilities. Even in countries where its use had been banned, lead paint can be found in old homes and on objects and products which were made decades ago.

Lead poisoning can occur through contact with the contaminated environment , through occupational activities and inhalation or ingestion. Lead can enter human body through paint production, surface painting and paint removal, renovation or dismantling of old buildings. The newly painted surface using lead paint is safe for humans, however, over time, the paint can crumble and turn into dust contaminating the environment .

Any amount of lead in our body is dangerous our health thus there is no minimum acceptable lead level. As it accumulates in our body overtime, it can affect crucial body systems, such as nervous, circulatory, gastrointestinal or cardiovascular system. Long-term exposure to lead can increase the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, and various kidney diseases. It is particularly saddening that one of the groups affected most are children, whose exposure to lead can lead to a mental retardation. A contaminated household dust is the main source of lead for children who are particularly at risk as they absorb 40-50% of lead when it enters their gastrointestinal tract.

In 2017, 1.06 million people died from lead poisoning. In addition, WHO estimates that in 2016, lead exposure accounted for 63.2% of the global burden of idiopathic mental retardation, 10.3% of the global burden of hypertension-induced heart disease, 5.6% of the global burden of coronary heart disease, and 6,2% of the global burden of stroke.

By following these precautions, you can protect yourself and your family members from the harmful effects of lead:

·         Make sure children do not chew paint pieces, lick painted surfaces, and stay away from areas where paint is peeling;

·         Wash your hands often, especially before eating;

·         Check blood for lead;

·         Try to buy water-based paint.

Lead paint will always be dangerous to people, particularly children, builders and other employees dealing with paint. However, lead is not required for paint making and can be easily replaced with other materials. Legal control in the form of new laws and regulations is very important to prevent the use of lead. This requires methods to identify and measure the lead presence in paint.

In 2002, during the World Summit on Sustainable Development, many governments called for the phasing out of lead paint. In  2011, the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paints (Global Alliance) was established to promote the phasing out of lead paints, thereby eliminating the threat posed by them. A key prerequisite for achieving this goal is an establishment of good regulatory frameworks by countries.

Source: A Quick Guide to Analytical Methods for Measuring Lead in Paint, Second Edition. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020. License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.




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