Stop lead poisoning in children – WHO

WHOOn the occasion of International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, the World Health Organization (WHO) has urged countries to do their best to stop lead poisoning in children and strengthen national actions to eliminate lead paint.

The WHO said lead poisoning has a devastating health consequences, particularly on children, with childhood lead exposure estimated to contribute to 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year.

It said overall, 99 percent of children affected by high exposure to lead live in low and middle income countries.

A statement signed by Ms Nada Osseiran, Communications Officer, WHO-Geneva, and copied to the Ghana News Agency on Friday said: “Lead paint is a major source of potential lead poisoning for young children. It may be found in the home, on toys, furniture and on other objects. Decaying lead paint on walls, furniture and other interior surfaces creates lead-contaminated dust in the home that young children easily ingest.”

“Lead poisoning remains one of the most important environmental health concerns for children globally, and lead paint is a major flashpoint for children’s potential lead poisoning,” it quoted  Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health and Environment.     “The good news is that exposure to lead paint can be entirely stopped through a range of measures to restrict the production and use of lead paint.”

The statement said it is estimated that 143,000 deaths per year result from lead poisoning and lead paint is a major contributor to this.

“Its use creates a health problem for many years into the future. Even in countries that have banned lead paint decades previously, such paint continues to be a source of exposure until it is finally stripped and replaced.

“The cost of replacing lead paint means that people living in older, poorly-maintained housing are particularly at risk, and this disproportionately affects economically-deprived communities,” it said.

The statement noted that the WHO has identified lead as one of ten chemicals of major public health concern, and lead requires action by member states in order to protect the health of workers, children and women of reproductive age.

It said such actions include adopting regulations and procedures to eliminate the use of lead decorative paints and provide information to the public on renovation of homes where lead paint may have already been applied.

“Worldwide, 30 countries have already phased out the use of lead paint. The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, co-led by WHO and UNEP, has set a target of 70 countries by 2015.

“At high levels of exposure to lead damages the brain and central nervous system and may cause coma, convulsions and even death. Children who survive such poisoning are often left with intellectual impairment and behavioural disorders,” it said.

The International Lead Poisoning Awareness Prevention Week of Action runs from October 20-26.This year’s theme, “Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future”, underscores the importance of avoiding the use of lead paint and using safe alternatives in order to prevent children coming to harm from lead poisoning.

Source: GNA

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