International Programme on Chemical Safety

International lead poisoning prevention week of action

22–28 October 2017

Theme: Ban lead paint

The issue

Lead poisoning is preventable, yet the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (1) has estimated that, based on 2015 data, lead exposure accounted for 494 550 deaths and 9.3 million disability adjusted life years (DALYs) due to long-term health effects, with the highest burden in developing regions. Of particular concern is the role of lead exposure in the development of intellectual disability in children.

Even though there is wide recognition of the harmful effects of lead and many countries have taken action, exposure to lead, particularly in childhood, remains of key concern to health care providers and public health officials worldwide.

An important source of domestic lead exposure, particularly in children, is paint containing high levels of lead. These paints are still widely available and used in many countries for decorative purposes, although good substitutes without lead are available.

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, governments called for the phase-out of lead-based paint. The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (Lead Paint Alliance) was formed in 2011 to promote the phase-out of the manufacture and sale of paints containing lead and eventually to eliminate the risks that such paints pose. A key requirement for achieving this is the establishment of appropriate national regulatory frameworks to stop the manufacture, import, export, distribution, sale and use of lead paints and products coated with lead paints. In its Business Plan, the Lead Paint Alliance set a target that by 2020 all countries should have in place such a regulatory framework, with a view to phasing out the use of lead paint altogether. In a survey carried out by WHO and the United Nations Environment Programme, (UNEP), which jointly coordinate the Lead Paint Alliance, as of 17 February 2017 only 64 governments confirmed that they have legally binding control measures on lead paint. Clearly more work is needed on this issue and International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week provides an opportunity to mobilize political and social commitment for further progress.

In eliminating lead paint countries will contribute to the achievement of the following Sustainable Development Goal targets:

  • 3.9: By 2030 substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water, and soil pollution and contamination.
  • 12.4 By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment.

The objectives

During the campaign week, the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint aims to:

  • Raise awareness about lead poisoning;
  • Highlight countries and partners' efforts to prevent childhood lead poisoning; and
  • Urge further action to eliminate lead paint.

Related links


(1). Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). GBD Compare. Seattle, WA: IHME, University of Washington, 2015. Available from http://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare (Accessed 18 Aug 2017).