Lead poison: WHO urges nations to strengthen action

A statement from the organization noted that lead poisoning has devastating health consequences in particular for children, with childhood lead exposure estimated to contribute to 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year. Overall, 99 per cent of children affected by high exposure to lead live in low and middle income countries.
Lead paint is a major source of potential lead poisoning for young children, which is likely found at homes, 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. Mouthing lead-painted toys and other objects also exposes young children to lead. The sweet taste of lead paint means that some children even pick off and swallow small chips of paint.
Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health and Environment said 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. “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,” she added.
It is estimated that 143,000 deaths per year result from lead poisoning and lead paint is a major contributor to this.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified lead as one of 10 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.
“Paints with extremely high levels of lead are still available in most of the developing countries where paint testing has been conducted as part of the efforts of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint.”

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