Thousands of children in Kenya are still exposed to decorative paints laced with illegal amounts of lead, a new study has indicated.
Childhood lead poisoning can have lifelong health impacts, including learning disabilities, anaemia, and disorders in coordination, visual and language skills.
But more than half of all decorative paints analysed in Kenya and 14 other African countries contain lead levels that are illegal in most developed countries, the report shows.
More than a quarter of the paints contain dangerously high lead levels.
The study was carried out by IPEN, an international lobby which promotes safe chemicals, and Kenya-based Centre for Environment Justice and Development.
The report was released yesterday.
“The health impacts of lead exposure on young children’s brains are lifelong, irreversible and untreatable,” head of Cejad, Griffins Ochieng, said.
Few paints carry consumer information about the lead content or the dangers associated with lead exposure.
Manufacturers add lead to paint to speed up drying, increase durability, maintain a fresh appearance and resist moisture that causes corrosion.
“We are limiting our children and our nations future intellectual development, even though safe and effective alternatives are already in use and widely available. We must reduce this critical source of lead exposure to young children,” the report says.
Data from a study on lead paint in Kenya – Lead in Solvent-Based Paints for Home Use in Kenya – conducted early this year, was included in the report. The study found more than 70 per cent of solvent-based paints for home use contained dangerously high levels of lead.
According to the study findings, one yellow paint advertised as “lead-free” contained levels as high as 16 per cent.
“Children, especially those under six years, ingest or inhale lead through exposure to dust or soil contaminated with lead-based paint. Governments should set mandatory limits on lead paint, but paint companies should not wait for regulation, they can and should act now,” Dr Sara BroschÃ©, IPEN’s Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaign Manager, said.