A STUDY on Zimbabwe-manufactured oil paints has revealed traces of highly toxic lead, which according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), is detrimental to human life, particularly children. The study was conducted in 2022 by the University of Zimbabwe in conjunction with Lead Exposure Elimination Project (LEEP).
The results revealed that 70% of oil-based paints sampled from the local market contained dangerous levels of lead. Some paints contained more than 100 times the limit.
The Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry ministry and the Environmental Management Agency of Zimbabwe (Ema) recently hosted a multi-stakeholder workshop to have a shared understanding of the issue. The main objective of the meeting was to establish a roadmap for ending the manufacture, import, and sale of paint with dangerous levels of lead in Zimbabwe.
The workshop was aimed at raising awareness on the dangers of lead poisoning, develop strategies to mitigate its impact and build consensus on the necessary steps to address the issue. The workshop was hosted by Ema with support from World Health Organisation Zimbabwe, United Nations Environment Programme and LEEP.
Sylvia Yomisi, environmental laboratory manager at Ema, stated that “the data collected in the study is a valuable resource for addressing the issue of lead paint in Zimbabwe.”
Ema said it was dedicated to eradicating lead paint in the country, adding that the input from all attendees at the workshop would guide the development of legally binding controls. Yomisi encouraged paint manufacturers to take advantage of available support to transition to lead-free paint.
The workshop brought together experts from various fields, including health, environmental management, paint manufacturers and policy development. These included the Health and Child Care ministry, Dulux Astra; Nash Paints; Chroma Paints; Biorich Investments and Crown Paints.
Participants said there was need for strict regulations on the use of lead in paint in Zimbabwe and the importance of education and awareness-raising campaigns to inform the public about the dangers of lead poisoning.
The workshop also highlighted the economic impact of lead poisoning which include increased healthcare costs, lost productivity, and decreased economic growth. By addressing the issue of lead poisoning in Zimbabwe, the government protects the health of its citizens and promotes sustainable economic development.
WHO urged countries to review their paint production processes with the aim of reducing lead content below the limit it set.
“It is crucial that we take intentional steps to protect our children from the devastating effects of lead poisoning,” said Jean-Marie Dangou, WHO country representative.
Lead poisoning is a serious health concern, especially for children, who are most vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure. Lead can damage the nervous system, kidneys, and the reproductive system, and can also cause developmental delays in children. Exposure to lead can occur through various means, including ingestion and inhalation.
The high levels of lead found in locally manufactured paint in Zimbabwe are a cause for concern. The use of lead-based paint is banned in many countries, including South Africa in the region, due to serious health risks associated with exposure to this toxic substance.
Zimbabwe currently has no regulations on the use of lead-based paint, which puts the population at risk.