Global report on lead in solvent-based paints
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY - Lead is a toxic metal that causes adverse effects on both human health and
the environment. While lead exposure is also harmful to adults, lead exposure
harms children at much lower levels, and the health effects are generally irreversible
and can have a lifelong impact.
The younger the child, the more harmful lead can be, and children with nutritional
deficiencies absorb ingested lead at an increased rate. The human fetus is
the most vulnerable, and a pregnant woman can transfer lead that has accumulated
in her body to her developing child. Lead is also transferred through
breast milk when lead is present in a nursing mother.
Even small amounts of lead can harm a child’s nervous system, making it more
likely that the child will have difficulties in school and engage in impulsive and
violent behavior. Lead exposure in young children has been linked to increased
rates of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, failure to graduate from high school, conduct
disorder, juvenile delinquency, drug use, and incarceration. The economic
cost of childhood lead exposure in low- and middle-income countries estimated
a total cumulative cost burden of $977 billion international dollars per year.
Most highly industrial countries adopted laws or regulations to control the lead
content of decorative paints—the paints used on the interiors and exteriors of
homes, schools, and other child-occupied facilities—beginning in the 1970s and
1980s. However, more than 40 lead paint studies over the last eight years show
that lead paints are still widely sold in low- and middle-income countries, many
containing very high levels of lead.
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