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Kenya gazettes new paint standards to eliminate lead paints
The future of Kenyan children looks brighter as the Government of Kenya announced this week that it gazetted compulsory standards to stop the production, import, export, use and sale of lead-containing paints in Kenya. The standards limit the total lead content in paints, varnishes and related products to 90 parts per million (ppm), a limit recommended by the United Nations Environment Program and that joins Kenya to countries like the United States, Cameroon and the Philippines with the most restrictive lead limits in force today.
The gazettement of the standards comes on the backdrop of a study report released by Centre for Environment Justice and Development (CEJAD) and IPEN in June 2017, which found that more than 69 percent of 51 analyzed solvent-based paints for home use contained lead levels greater than 90 ppm.
Executive Director, CEJAD, Griffins Ochieng, said,“The new standards will not only control lead paints in Kenya, but will directly protect intelligence of Kenyan children. Lead exposure affects children even at low levels, and its health impacts are generally irreversible and lifelong.
“We applaud the government for this action, however the effective implementation of this standard remains the most critical action to help protect the intellectual development of our children and thus secure our country’s future intellectual capacity.”
The good news arrived as Kenyan paint manufacturers, policy makers and civil society organizations met on the 31st of January 2018 in Nairobi for a dialogue on eliminating lead in paints in Kenya. Convened by the public interest group, Centre for Environment Justice and Development (CEJAD), in partnership with IPEN, a global civil society of network pursuing safe chemicals policies and practices, the meeting aimed at promoting dialogue amongst stakeholders on the paint standards implementation to fast-track Kenya’s efforts to achieve the global goal of eliminating lead paint by 2020.
The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) gazetted the two standards: KS 2661-1:2017 and KS 2661-2:2017 on the determination of total lead content in paints, varnishes and related products under Gazette Notice Number 675 dated 26th January 2018.
“By enacting this standard, Kenya has now joined the US, Cameroon and the Philippines in enacting the most restrictive legal limit anywhere today. The government has taken an important step to protect the health of the children in Kenya and should be highly commended for its progressive action on this issue. Hopefully, this will inspire other African countries to do the same.” Said Dr. Sara Brosché, IPEN’s Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaign Manager.
When lead paint used in homes, schools and playgrounds deteriorates over time, children may inhale or ingest lead through household dust, paint chips or contaminated soil. Childhood lead poisoning can have lifelong health impacts, including reduced IQs, learning disabilities, hypertension, seizure, anaemia disorders in coordination, visual, spatial and language skills.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes lead paint as a major source of “lead-caused mental retardation,” a disease WHO identifies as one of the top ten diseases whose health burden among children was due to modifiable environmental factors. WHO further states that “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.”
Globally, lead exposure is estimated to amount to account for 143, 000 deaths per year with the highest burden in developing regions. Ninety-nine per cent of children affected by high exposure to lead live in low-and middle-income countries.