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Lead affects brain development

Lead paint has been identified as one of the most widespread sources of childhood lead exposure. At the last FRAM seminar, Dr Sara Brosché, a science advisor from IPEN, talked about their work to eliminate lead paint globally.

But why focus on lead?

- Lead is one of ten chemicals of major public health concern according to WHO, says Sara Brosché. It is toxic because it replaces calcium in the body which causes a wide range of effects, such as brain and nervous system damage, anaemia, and kidney damage.

Sara Brosché says that lead is not only toxic for the individual, it is also costly for society. Research has shown that even exposure to small levels of lead can lower the IQ in a population as it harms the brain. Increased rates of hyperactivity and inattentiveness in class leads to failure to graduate from high school. The effect is that a country’s intellectual capital is reduced.

- Brain damage due to lead exposure during early ages is irreversible and untreatable so the only possible way to handle lead is to prevent the use.

The reason why lead is being used in paint is because it gives durable, shiny and bright colors. In 1/3 of the countries in the world the use of lead paint is regulated but lead paint is sold almost everywhere. It is used in homes, schools, playgrounds, road markings, industrial paint, marine paint, on toys etc. This is a global problem since lead spreads through dust in the air, is released to soil and water, and travels around the world in consumer products, e.g. in toys.

- This is both sad and stupid as there are alternatives available for all uses, says Sara. Still the use of lead paint is increasing.

IPEN is now making a global lead paint elimination campaign. Their goal is to phase out the manufacture and sale of lead paint and to eliminate the lead poisoning risks. The FRAM centre supports this campaign. See the video from the FRAM seminar held on November 29 at the Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development.

Watch the video with Sara Brosché talking about lead in paint.