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A Toxics-Free Future


Lead in Kenyan Household Paint

Please see the report below the press release.



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                           

September 18, 2012                       


Study Shows Dangerous Lead Levels in Paints in Kenya

(Nairobi, Kenya): Most major paint companies in Kenya sell paint for household use containing unsafe levels of lead according to the first study of lead in decorative paint in Kenya released today.

“Exposure to even small amounts of lead can reduce the child’s intelligence and school performance; and can also cause increased violent behavior, so high levels of lead in paint are a cause for serious concern.  Painted surfaces deteriorate with time or when disturbed, and lead from the paint then contaminates household dust and soils surrounding the home. Children ingest lead from dusts and soils during normal hand to mouth behavior. Damage to children’s intelligence and mental development occurs, even when there are no obvious or clinical signs of lead poisoning. This damage is lifelong and irreversible,” said Cecilia Nganga, executive director for iLima, the Kenyan NGO which carried out the paint sampling project.

The study examined thirty-one samples of enamel paint from 11 major Kenyan paint companies (Beaver, Crown, Duracoat, Basco, Solai, Contractor, Ideal, United, Shamco, Apex, and Unity ). The enamel paints sampled are primarily for home use. The study found that the average lead concentration of all paints sampled was 14,900 parts per million (ppm) lead. By comparison, the United States prohibits the sale and use of house paints that contain more than 90 ppm lead: the average lead concentration of the tested paints purchased in Kenya was 165 times higher than the U.S. limit.

All the major brands tested had at least one paint color with high levels of lead that exceed internationally recognized limits for lead in paint. Eight of the eleven brands tested had at least one color with more than 10,000 ppm lead.  The highest lead concentration found in any of the Kenyan paints tested was 69,000 ppm. This is more than750 times higher than the maximum lead content that would be allowed in house paints sold in the United States.

Recent World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines indicate that they cannot establish a tolerable weekly intake for lead. The European Safety Authority Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain has concluded “there is no evidence for a threshold for critical lead-induced effects.”                                                                                                                        

“The hazards of lead to children’s development has been recognized for more than 80 years and governments of virtually all highly industrial countries in North America, Europe and elsewhere have prohibit the sale and use of leaded house paints for more than 40 years,” said Jack Weinberg, senior policy advisor to IPEN, a global network of more than 700 nongovernmental organizations working on toxic chemical issues worldwide, which sponsored the study.

iLima, purchased thirty-one cans of oil-based (enamel) house paints from stores in and around Nairobi in August 2012 and sent samples of the paints to an accredited testing laboratory in the United States which complies with international accreditation requirements. The paint sampling and testing activities were supervised by Dr. Scott Clark, Professor Emeritus, Environmental Health, and University of Cincinnati, United States.

The report, entitled Lead in Kenyan Household Paint, was released as delegates from around the world met in Nairobi to develop an international approach to safe chemicals management. The International Conference on Chemicals Management, which is holding its third tri-annual meeting from September 17-21 in Nairobi, has already identified lead in paint as an international priority of concern and will be considering a follow-up resolution on lead in paints this week addressing future international and national lead paint elimination efforts.  

ILima is a registered not-for-profit non-governmental organization in Kenya specializing in promoting a toxics-free future and sustainable development approaches. ‘iLima’ is a word of South African origin meaning ‘collective action’.  The mission of the organization is to work for the realization of a healthy environment for all to live in, with special focus on the need to eliminate chemical pollution.

The testing effort was organized and supported by IPEN, an international NGO network of health and environmental organizations from all regions of the world in which iLima participates.

IPEN is a leading global organization working to establish and implement safe chemicals policies and practices to protect human health and the environment whose mission is a toxics-free future for all. IPEN helps build the capacity of its member organizations to implement on-the-ground activities, learn from each other’s work, and work at the international level to set priorities and achieve new policies.


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Cecilia nganga

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