“Armenian Women for Health and a Healthy Environment” (AWHHE) NGO emphasizes the threats to children from lead paint during the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.
AWHHE joins the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (hereinafter – the Alliance) – a joint program of WHO and UNEP within the framework of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (ILPPW), which will be held on 23-29 October. The Alliance highlights the urgent need to protect children’s health by taking action to eliminate the use of lead paint. During the week of action, AWHHE will conduct a Roundtable discussion to summarize the NGO’s ten-year effort to phase out lead paint and outline the necessary steps that can contribute to solving this problem.
AWHHE is a member of IPEN, a global coalition of over 600 public interest organizations in over 125 countries working to eliminate toxic substances and sources. IPEN is a founding member of the Alliance and a member of its Advisory Council. This year’s ILPPW events will mark the tenth anniversary of the annual effort to raise the global significance of the ongoing threats of lead poisoning, including lead paint, which continues to be used in Armenia and in most part of the world.
Since 2009, IPEN member groups have conducted more than 100 studies on over 4,000 paints from 59 countries, including in Armenia.
In 2016, AWHHE participated in the IPEN Lead Paint Elimination Initiative. A total of 16 points of sale in Armenia were surveyed, including specialized shops, paint shops and private shops. The result was a list of 49 brand paints in four colors (red, green, yellow and white). The study showed that the Armenian market has a large number of imported household paints. In 59% of the analyzed samples of brands of household paint (29 out of 49 samples analyzed), the lead content was high compared to the international maximum concentration limit for lead (90 ppm).
In September 2016, the results were presented at the workshop “Children’s Health Problems Due to Environmental Degradation and Climate Change”. The event was organized by the UNICEF office in Armenia and was attended by various stakeholders from the government, international organizations and organizations representing the Armenian civil society.
Decades have proven that there is no safe level of lead exposure. Lead is a powerful poison that affects many human body systems and is especially harmful to young children. Even in small doses, lead can affect children’s brain development, leading to lower IQs, behavioral changes such as decreased concentration of attention and antisocial behavior, and reduced levels of education. Lead exposure can also damage the kidneys, reproductive organs, immune system, and lead to anemia and hypertension. The neurological and behavioral effects of lead exposure are generally irreversible.
Currently, the draft technical regulation of the Customs Union “On the Safety of Paints and Varnishes” of 2013 does not require a detailed description of its composition to be included in the labeling of paints and varnishes. AWHHE is calling for a strict limit of lead in decorative paints to 90 ppm through outreach (letters and meetings) with relevant government agencies (Department of the Eurasian Economic Commission and Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Economy of Armenia, RA Ministry of Health). Unfortunately, at the local level, changes have not yet been achieved. Work should be continued at the regional level with the participation of interested NGOs from member countries of the Eurasian Union.
In addition, together with IPEN, AWHHE is calling for the listing of lead chromates under the Rotterdam Convention. Even countries with legally binding national bans find it difficult to enforce them when lead chromates, lead-containing pigments used in paints, continue to be sold around the world without prior notice or consent. The listing of lead chromates will trigger the Convention’s Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure and provide countries with the information they need to opt out of imports of lead chromates and lead paints.
“We have long known about the toxic threat of lead paint to our children and families, and many countries stopped selling lead paint decades ago. However, in most parts of the world, lead paint is still in use and poses a lifelong threat to the health of millions of children,” said Manny Calonzo, 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize winner, former IPEN Co-Chair and Founder of the IPEN Lead Safe Paint® Certification Program. “Our children cannot wait another ten years to get rid of lead paint – we need urgent action to stop lead poisoning in our children,” he said.
Even in countries where lead paint is banned, old houses painted with lead paint continue to cause lead-related health problems in millions of children. That is why urgent action is needed to eliminate lead paint worldwide – lead paint sold today will continue to pose a threat to children’s health for decades to come.