From: Allison Winter, ENN
Published March 28, 2013 11:52 AM

Lead-Based Paint Still Being Sold in Developing Nations

Lead is added to paint mainly to speed up drying and increase durability, but due to its toxic effects has been banned in many countries. Nonetheless, lead-based paint still poses a problem as older housing stock may contain lead-based painted walls. When this paint chips, inhalation and ingestion (particularly by children) can damage the nervous system and cause a slew of health problems. Despite the uproar of concern for this type of paint in western countries, new reports show that lead paint is still being sold in poor nations.


Perry Gottesfeld, lead author for an investigative study, has discovered high levels of the heavy metal in numerous house paints for sale throughout the African nation of Cameroon. Further investigation has led the research team to conclude that there’s still plenty of lead paint for sale in other developing nations.

Two years ago Gottesfeld was in Cameroon, where he and collaborators at a local NGO now report they had found nearly a dozen enamel household paints with so much lead in them they exceeded the U.S. standard by 300 times or more. Only a few listed any ingredients on the label, and none had any warning language to alert consumers of the danger.

The study also found that of 61 mainly enamel paints purchased at Cameroonian retail stores, 64 percent had lead concentrations well above the U.S. standard for residential paints of 90 parts per million (ppm). Nine out of 22 paints made by a company called Seigneurie tested had significant lead concentrations.

In an effort to advise against the production of this paint, Gottesfeld and colleagues visited Seigneurie and ironically found that the company was a subsidiary of PPG, the world’s second-largest paint company with headquarters in Pittsburgh.

While lead paint has been banned in the U.S. and Europe companies are continuing to sell unsafe products to developing countries.

In response to the team's investigation, Jeremy Neuhart, a PPG spokesperson, told Yale Environment 360 that the company has not confirmed the findings in Gottesfeld's study, but that "PPG's architectural paint and decorative coatings marketed to consumers around the world meet" the U.S. standard. He added that Seigneurie consumer products in Cameroon include labels with that information, and that while Cameroon does not regulate lead in paints, PPG representatives have met with government officials to offer support for establishing an industry standard.

Read more about the investigation at YaleEnvironment 360.

The study is published in the online version of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.

Painting image via Shutterstock..

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