SEATTLE, Washington — Lead exposure causes devastating health effects for people worldwide. However, the most concentrated areas of lead poisoning are in developing countries. Efforts made by the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, such as introducing International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, have reduced these issues by facilitating education and mobilization programs in many developing countries. While these humanitarian efforts have reduced global lead poisoning, there is still much to do to end global lead exposure.
Lead Exposure: The Issue
Lead poisoning is troubling for a variety of reasons:
- In 2017, 1.06 million deaths were attributed to lead poisoning.
- Children are especially negatively impacted by lead exposure because it can cause lifelong health issues and impede typical brain development.
- Adults are negatively affected by lead exposure as well, with toxins accumulating in “the brain, liver, kidney and bones,” and one of the most common outcomes is kidney damage.
- Pregnant women are also disproportionally affected, as lead exposure can cause “miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight.”
- One of the most common paths to lead exposure is via lead paint, which is still commonly used in houses, schools, various other public places and even on some children’s toys.
The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint
In 2011, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme created the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint. This organization was founded on the principle that the use of lead paint is entirely avoidable, and eliminating it would dramatically reduce lead poisoning levels. Currently, 37% of countries have laws prohibiting lead paint, which is an entirely too small a fraction. As such, the humanitarian international organizations are working to advance several important goals:
- Advocate for the installation of government regulations that ban lead paint in every country.
- Foster awareness of the causes and effects of lead poisoning.
- Decrease the number of deaths and health issues caused by lead exposure.
International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week
Since 2013, the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint has held an annual International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. This year, in 2020, it will be held from October 25 to 31. These weeks will focus on creating concentrated, recurring engagement in communities by mobilizing the public to share infographics and information about the toxic nature of lead to as many people as possible.
The information these efforts highlight the most is that lead exposure at any level is toxic to people of all ages. Additionally, it informs the public about how one can become exposed to it. The alliance calls for people to follow three main steps: “Learn the risks, join the action and eliminate lead paint.”
Graphics and educational materials are available in all core languages so that organizers can distribute the information as effectively as possible.
In 2019, International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week succeeded in holding 89 events across 57 countries, mostly in developing countries in Africa. Events included marches, TV broadcasts, school events, educational demonstrations and information distribution events.
Each year, more events have been held, and more countries have been engaged. Additionally, more countries continue to create regulations for lead paint, consequently decreasing exposure. These trends paint an encouraging picture of a lead-free future in which lead health issues can be eradicated.