, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 22 – Lead is the top toxic chemical that continues to claim lives and deprive normal lives to children, according to a report by a local Non-Governmental Organization, iLima.
“Children ingest lead from dusts and soils during normal hand to mouth behaviour. Exposure to even small amounts of lead can reduce the child’s intelligence and school performance and can also cause increased violent behaviour.”
“The highest lead concentration found in any of the Kenyan paints tested was 69,000 ppm (parts per million). This is more than 750 times higher than the maximum lead content that would be allowed in house paints sold in the United States,” the report says.
“Children and workers are especially at risk when surfaces that were painted in the past with lead paint are repainted or disturbed by construction or other activities. Workmen may sand, dry scrape, grind, or in other ways disturb the old painted surface and produce large quantities of dust with very high lead content,” the iLima report explained.
It that highlighted the effects of use of lead in household paints and called on paint manufacturers in Kenya not to use lead pigments.
“Consumers, parents and other stakeholders should demand that lead paints are no longer sold and used in Kenya,” the study states.
“Paint cans should be required to state whether the paint’s formulation includes lead compounds or other toxic substances and should contain a warning of lead dust hazards that are created when preparing for re-painting surfaces containing leaded paints,” iLima said in its recommendations.
The report surveyed 31 samples that were oil based (enamel) household paints representing 11 brands that are manufactured and available in Kenya.
In most cases, three samples of the brand were purchased: white, red and yellow and for each, one or more of the samples had a very high lead concentration.
“Paints containing lead are greater pollutants because they seep into almost everything, our food, our water and eventually into our bodies where the fatal results are seen.” explained Issak Elmi the Chief Research Officer at the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
Elmi on Monday noted that the vanguard sources of lead are paints and fuel saying that when inhaled it has more adverse effects than when swallowed.
He added that the stringent legislation will soon be implemented by the government to ensure that the country is a “No Lead Zone.”
“National Efforts to promote the establishment of an appropriate legal and regulatory framework to prohibit the manufacture and sale of lead products have been successful,” he said.
“We are also creating awareness that seeks to discourage people from using the lead based paints especially within the households,” said Elmi.
Speaking during the unveiling of a report showing the adverse effects of lead poisoning, the NEMA Chief Researcher added: “Paint manufacturers have a responsibility to act on their own to not produce toxic paints that harms their customers.”
He further explained that some manufacturers intentionally fail to indicate presence of lead in their products something he condemns saying: “Buyers have a right to know the contents of the item they purchase.”
Peter Gilruth an officer at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Division of Early Warning Assessment said that lead based products are attractive.
“Lead based paint is very attractive and long lasting though the long term effects are in-comprehendible,” he said.
Gilruth says that children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable.
“Pregnant mothers suffer from the lead as the toxin causes deformities on their unborn baby,” he said.
“Children who ingest lead suffer from poor brain development as they are slower than their counterparts who are not exposed.”
The report by the UNEP indicates that: “Globally 600,000 new cases of intellectual disabilities are reported with 99 percent of the cases being of children in the developing countries.”