Crack down on lead-based paint

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pretoria - The Department of Health is to launch an investigation following reports on the ongoing availability of hazardous lead-based paint, despite the ban of its manufacture and sale.

The department's Professor Nicky Padayachee warned that the health consequences of lead poisoning were severe, including reductions in IQ scores, hyperactivity, learning difficulties and poor performance at school.

"In light of this, we are obliged to act to the full extent of the law against those who ignore the lead paint legislation, and in so doing pose a serious, yet preventable risk to the South African public," said Padayachee.

Director of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Environment and Health Research Unit, Professor Angela Mathee, said she had been watching with interest the SA Paint Manufacturing Association (SAPMA) initiative to remove leaded paint from retail shelves in recent years, and was shocked to learn that there are still manufacturers and major retail outlets that are not taking this major public health problem to heart.

"It is shameful that manufacturers or suppliers would wilfully impose on unwitting members of the public a known and banned hazard, especially to young children," said Mathee.

Professor Mathee commended the SAPMA's lead-free campaign and encouraged consumers to look for the stickers at retail outlets indicating that they have joined SAPMA's lead-free paint quest.

"One child who contracts lead poisoning by chewing paint coatings with illegally high lead levels is one too many," noted Mathee, who spearheaded the anti-lead campaign and exposed the prevalence of lead poisoning in children some years ago.

Executive Director of SAPMA, Deryck Spence, said the association would welcome increased governmental pressure to aid its campaign against leaded paints.

"Apathetic paint retailers, who do not believe that they are part of the paint industry and are immune from responsibility, are risking major consumer resistance as well as public health," Spence said.