The Federal Ministry of Environment in collaboration with the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) have been asked to urgently draft a regulation that will ban the manufacture, import, export, distribution, sale and use of paints that contain total lead concentrations exceeding 90 ppm, the most restrictive standard in the world.
The government bodies were likewise told to impress it on paint companies to display sufficient information indicating harmful content on paint can labels such as solvents, and provide a warning on possible lead dust hazards when disturbing painted surfaces.
Mr Ane Leslie Adogame, Executive Director, Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development (SRADev) Nigeria, who made the submission in Lagos on Friday, October 20, 2017 while suggesting ways to address the problem of lead in paint, stressed that paint companies that still produce lead paints should expeditiously stop the use of leaded paint ingredients in paint formulations.
“Paint companies that have shifted to non-lead paint production should get their products certified through independent, third party verification procedures to increase the customer´s ability to choose paints with no added lead,” he said. “They should also provide information about the lead content of their products on paint can labels.”
Paint consumers, Adogame added, should demand paints with no added lead from paint manufacturers and retailers, as well as full disclosure of a paint product’s lead content.
“Household and institutional consumers should ask for, consciously buy, and apply only paints with no added lead in places frequently used by children such as homes, schools, day care centers, parks and playgrounds,” he suggested.
He wants public health groups, consumer organisations and other concerned entities to support the elimination of lead paint, and conduct activities to inform and protect children from lead exposure through lead paint, lead in dust and soil, and other sources of lead.
The SRADev boss called on civil society organisations and professional groups to collaborate with government agencies to carry out awareness-raising campaigns to sensitise the public on the dangers associated with elevated lead levels in the blood, possible sources of lead exposure, and availability of possible technically superior and safer alternatives.
His words: “There is a need to raise awareness and take precautions when preparing a previously painted surface for repainting; train people, such as painters working on previously-painted surfaces about lead-safe work practices; and raise the needed resources to conduct such trainings. Campaigns that will empower consumers’ right to know the lead content of paints they purchase should be encouraged.”
He enjoined stakeholders to come together and unite in promoting a strong policy that will eliminate lead paint in Nigeria. “Stakeholders are encouraged to foster voluntary initiatives by paint manufacturers, importers of paints and paint chemicals, and vendors to phase-out the use of lead compounds in their products, even before any national legal instrument is adopted or enforced,” he said.
He reiterated SRADev’s resolve to move forward chemical management issues in Nigeria, pointing out that the event “reflects our deep desire to provide a healthy environment that guarantee economic and social well-being of the Nigeria populace.”
Adogame spoke in the light of findings from a recent study on lead in solvent-based paints for home use in the country. The study was carried out from July to August. 2016.
Out of the 40 out of 54 analysed solvent-based paints for home use (74 percent of paints) were lead paints, that is they contained a total lead concentration above 90 parts per million. The study also disclosed that 29 paints (54 percent of paints) contained dangerously high lead concentrations above 10,000 ppm. The highest total lead concentration detected was 160,000 ppm, which is nearly 1,800 times the 90 ppm.
“The findings of this report show that most of the paints for home use available in the market in Nigeria have high concentrations of lead,” said Oyewole Ashaolu, Deputy Director, Pollution Control and Environmental Health Department in the Federal Ministry of Environment.
Ashaolu, an engineer, added: “This therefore calls for an urgent action by all stakeholders, the Federal Ministry of Environment, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Consumers Protection Council (CPC) to adopt and be ready to enforce regulations that will totally ban the manufacture, distribution and use of paints with total lead concentrations greater than 90ppm.”
He commended the efforts of SRADev, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) NGO focal point in Nigeria, which he said “has been a partner in ensuring that research findings are translated to policy.”
National focal point for SAICM is the Federal Ministry of Environment, through the Department of Pollution Control and Environmental Health, coordinates all activities towards achievement of set goals. SRADev had worked to ensure the research is completed and the report made available to relevant stakeholders.
The SAICM is a global policy framework to foster the sound management of chemicals, supporting the achievement of the goal agreed at the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit for Sustainable Development of ensuring that, by 2002, chemicals will be produced and used in ways that minimise significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health.
Ashaolu’s words: “The report of this research will no doubt provide a basis for policy formulation and development of a regulatory framework for the complete elimination of lead in decorative paints and paints used generally in our households in Nigeria.
“Lead has been known to be intentionally added to paints as pigments; these pigments are used to give paint its colour, make the paint opaque and protect the paint and the underlying surface from degradation caused by exposure to sunlight. They are also added to enamel paints for use as driers and as antirust agents on paints used on metal. The most common lead compound used in this industry is lead tetroxide, sometimes called Red Lead.
“Lead is a cumulative toxicant that effects multiple body systems. Young children are particularly vulnerable because they absorb four to five times as much ingested lead as adults from a given source. Moreover, children’s innate curiosity and their age appropriate hand-in-mouth behavior result in their mouthing and swallowing lead containing or lead coated objects, such as contaminated soil, dust and flakes from decaying lead containing walls.”