Most paints and coatings manufactured or sold in Kenya have high levels of lead

World Health Organisation (WHO) studies indicate that most paints and coatings manufactured or sold in Kenya have high levels of lead, which exceed their recommended levels.

The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, led by UN Environment and the WHO has set a target for all governments to ban lead in paint by 2020.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) has developed and adopted two standards for paints, varnishes and related products to control the manufacture and importation of leaded paints. KEBS has developed limitation of lead concentration of all paints, whether manufactured or imported to a maximum to 90 parts per million.

Paints without lead additives have been used in many countries for decades and have proven to be viable, cost-effective alternatives.

However, lead is a highly toxic metal that may cause a range of health problems, especially in younger children. When lead is absorbed into the body, it can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs, like kidneys, nerves and blood. Lead can be found in decorative paint for interiors and exteriors of homes, schools, public and commercial buildings, as well as on toys, furniture and playgrounds.

As lead paint deteriorates over time, children may inhale or ingest lead through household dust, paint chips or contaminated soil. The move to eliminate lead from all paints is now critical as the country is currently experiencing a huge construction boom.

Statistics from Kenya Economic Survey indicate production of paints, pigments, varnishes and allied coatings within the country have been increasing between five and 10 per cent each year.

Kenya’s Anti Counterfeit Agency needs to focus on counterfeiters who cut corners in the production phase by engaging in environmentally unsound manufacturing processes and using inferior-grade materials including uncontrolled use of lead.

Nema on its part should exert more pressure on property developers across the country to comply with the new KEBS regulations to avoid contamination of soil with lead.

Jamil Virjee, Managing Director, Kansai Plascon Kenya.

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