Join forces on Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

WHO is part of the international efforts against lead poisoning on the occasion of the Lead Poisoning Prevention Week taking place on 20-26 October 2013, with a special focus on prevention of ill health from lead paint. The UN Agency for Health encourages all European countries to join forces to advocate for lead paint elimination.

Lead is a well-known toxic metal with the ability to harm human health through developmental, behavioral and neurological disorders, anemia, tiredness and muscle weakness, kidney and liver damage.  According to WHO, lead exposure is estimated to account for 0.6% of the global burden of disease, with developing countries being the most affected. Children’s higher susceptibility to lead exposure results in about 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year.  While there is no safe threshold for lead, lead poisoning is entirely preventable.

On Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, a number of countries – including Albania, Armenia, France, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Moldova, and Serbia - will join the campaign to raise awareness on lead toxicity as well as to organize trainings for health care professionals. Activities go from workshops with decision-makers, legislators and industry representatives to TV events and mass media publications, reflecting countries’ priorities in elimination of lead poisonings within the WHO European Region.

The  phasing  out  of  lead  from  petrol,  first  in  western  Europe  and  later  in central and eastern Europe, has resulted in a significant fall in blood lead levels in children over the last two decades. Nevertheless there are still many sources of lead release into the environment such as industrial processes, paint, solder in canned foods and water pipes and further action is needed to reduce people’s exposure to lead. Lead was not present in people’s blood before humans began using it in technological development.

The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead from Paint (GAELP), recently created by WHO and UNEP in partnership with the United States Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control, the Environmental Protection Agency and the International Paediatric Association, aims to eliminate lead from paint till 2020 in the majority of countries.