Photo: City of Berkeley Public Health Division
Lagos, Nigeria- On the occasion of the International Lead Poisoning Awareness Prevention Week of Action (20-26 Oct), the World Health Organization (WHO) is seeking an end to lead poisoning in children by calling on countries to strengthen national actions to eliminate lead paint.
As a first step, the global health body is urging countries to address the issue of lead paint, a major source of potential lead poisoning for young children, as it may be found in the home, on toys, furniture and on other objects.
Decaying lead paint on walls, furniture and other interior surfaces creates lead-contaminated dust in the home that young children easily ingest. Mouthing lead-painted toys and other objects also exposes young children to lead.
The sweet taste of lead paint means that some children even pick off and swallow small chips of paint.
According to the WHO, lead poisoning has devastating health consequences in particular for children, with childhood lead exposure estimated to contribute to 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year.
Overall, 99% of children affected by high exposure to lead live in low and middle income countries.
Also, it is estimated that 143,000 deaths per year result from lead poisoning and lead paint is a major contributor to this.
The International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action, provides an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of the widespread availability of lead paint.
Globally, 30 countries have already phased out the use of lead paint. The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, co-led by WHO and UNEP, has set a target of 70 countries by 2015.
The theme of the 2013 International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action is “Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future”, which underscores the importance of avoiding the use of lead paint and using safe alternatives in order to prevent children coming to harm from lead poisoning.