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International Lead Poisoning Prevention week

International Lead Poisoning Prevention week – 21 to 27 October 2018


It is International Lead Poisoning Prevention week, the main focus is eliminating lead paint. Lead poisoning is preventable, yet the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has estimated that, based on 2016 data, lead exposure accounted for 540 000 deaths and 13.9 million years lost to disability and death due to long-term effects on health, with the highest burden in developing regions. Of particular concern is the role of lead exposure in the development of intellectual disability in children.

Even though there is wide recognition of this problem and many countries have taken action, exposure to lead, particularly in childhood, remains of key concern to health care providers and public health officials worldwide.

In 2009, regulations to control the use of lead in paint were promulgated under the Hazardous Substances Act 15 of 1973


Three years after promulgation of the legislation, a follow-up study of lead concentrations in “off the shelf” enamel paints was undertaken in 2012 the findings of  study was;

  • Lead concentrations ranged from < 0.25 to 169 000 ppm (282 times higher than SA regulations; 1878 times higher than USA reference level);
  • 40% of enamel paint samples STILL had elevated lead concentrations;
  • Mislabelling: many instances of lead paint with no warning label


Lead poisoning is widespread in South African children;

  • Lead paint is an important source of childhood lead exposure;
  • Lead-based paint continues to be sold in South Africa, despite the promulgation of legislation to prohibit the practice;
  • Exposure to lead in paint is a preventable environmental health risk in South Africa;
  • Environmental health practitioners need to use the legislation available to act firmly to protect the public and especially children from lead-poisoning associated with paint.




Presentation by Professor Angela Mathee – South African  Medival Research Council


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