Children at risk as Nigeria could miss global target to remove lead in household paints
Millions of Nigerians, especially children run the risk of retarded growth and brain development difficulties due to continued high exposure of lead in household and decorative paints as Africa’s largest economy looks uncertain to meet the global deadline for eradication of lead in paints by 2020.
Oladele Osinbajo, a foremost expert on environmental governance and Chairman/CEO Jawura Environmental Services Ltd in a speech at the World Health Organisation International Lead Poisoning Week of Action marked in the office of the Lagos state environmental protection Agency (LASEPA), on October 25, said it is regrettable that Nigeria will miss the global deadline to eradicate lead in household paints further endangering lives.
“We are simply not prepared,” Osinbajo said
Speaking in the same vein, Jude Maduka, president of Paint Manufacturers of Nigeria (PMAN) said his colleagues are complying with directive to reduce the quantity of lead in paints to 90 parts per million (ppm) but a lot would need to be done even as he said it was doubtful the deadline will be met.
“We have to apply these reforms gradually because these are businesses, we can’t suddenly put a stop to it, it has to be gradual, even after 2020, we will still working to remove it,” Maduka said.
Antonio Ayodele, general manager of LASEPA in his address identified funding as one of the challenges militating against the organisation’s efforts to enforce provisions of Lagos environmental regulations guiding the practice as well as other infractions by operators.
“Also when we applied to be at the ports to monitor how these chemicals come into the country, there is serious uproar, people were saying, NAFDAC is at the ports, SON is at the ports, it is too much, so we stepped back,” Ayodele said.
Leslie Adogame, executive director of STRADev Nigeria, who convened the gathering and has conducted several environmental studies on lead and other dangerous chemicals said his study provide a strong justification to adopt and enforce a regulation that will ban the manufacture, import, export, distribution, sale and use of paints with total lead concentrations greater than 90 ppm.
Lead is a toxic metal that causes adverse effects on both human health and the environment. Experts says that while lead exposure is also harmful to adults, lead exposure harms children at much lower levels.
Tobias Eisenhut, a paediatrician, with the German “Öko Institut” who has worked on lead research teams, said the effects on children is more dangerous because it is often irreversible.
The danger of lead has been well documented in several studies around the world leading the WHO to list ‘lead-caused retardation’ as a recognised disease. The WHO also lists it as one of the top ten diseases whose health burden among children is due to modifiable environmental factors.
From July to August 2016, SRADev Nigeria purchased a total of 54 cans of solvent-based paint intended for home use from stores in Lagos, Nigeria. All paints were analyzed by an accredited laboratory in the United States of America for their lead content, based on dry weight of the paint.
It found that 40 out of 54 analyzed solvent-based paints for home use (74 percent of paints) were lead paints, which means they contained lead concentrations above 90 parts per million (ppm, dry weight of paint). This is also the regulatory limit for lead in decorative paint in e.g., India, Philippines, and the United States of America.
The study also found that that 29 paints (54 percent of paints) contained dangerously high lead concentrations above 10,000 ppm. The highest lead concentration detected was 160,000 ppm in a yellow Finecoat Paint sold for home use
According to the study, yellow paints most frequently contained dangerously high lead concentrations above 10,000 ppm. Of 18 yellow paints, 16 (89 percent of yellow paints) contained lead levels at or above 10,000 ppm; of 18 red paints, 12 (67 percent of red paints) contained lead levels at or above 10,000 ppm; and 1 white paint (6 percent of white paints) contained lead level above 10,000 ppm.
Adogame is concerned that the government is not moving swiftly enough to forestall this danger and he called speedy action on a regulation to ban lead in household paints by the Federal Ministry of Environment (FMEnv) and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).
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