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A Toxics-Free Future

East Africa Moves to Eradicate Toxic Paints

By Kennedy Senelwa

East Africa is racing against time to phase out paints with high content of lead additives.

The East African Community (EAC) requirement provides for 100 parts per million (ppm) of lead content for paints used in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan, to be complied with within three years.

The International Persistent Organic Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) said 100 parts per million was fixed in May 2016 as the EAC standard.

"Lead in paint is a problem because surfaces deteriorate over time. Lead contaminates dust and soils surrounding homes. Children ingest lead from dust and soils," said IPEN.

Lead as a toxic metal accumulates in the brain, liver, kidney, bones and teeth, experts said. Manufacturers add lead to paints to speed up drying, increase durability, make a surface glossy and resist moisture that causes corrosion.

A global campaign by the World Health Organisation and United Nations Environment Programme has set 2020 as the deadline for governments to ban lead in paint by promoting cost-effective alternatives.

The UN agencies are advocating for use of water-based lead free paints.

Kenya and Tanzania, East Africa's largest manufacturer of decorative paints, are expected to champion the transition to 90 ppm paints as their bureaus of standards are establishing implementation standards.

Kenya Bureau of Standards principal standards officer Peter Wanyonyi said regulations to bar manufacture, importation and sale of paint with lead content exceeding 90 ppm had been finalised.

Tanzania Bureau of Standards has set 2020 as deadline for companies to comply.