by Hana Namrouqa | Oct 12, 2014

AMMAN — Despite the ban on leaded-paint in Jordan, walls of schools and old buildings remain coated with lead-based paint, posing health hazards for children in particular, an environmentalist said on Sunday.

Jordan Environment Society (JES) Executive Director Ahmad Kofahi said despite a decision to ban the use of lead in paint manufacturing, several local companies continue to use the substance in paint and other products.

“The use of lead in paint and other products must be completely phased out in Jordan, while the walls of schools and old buildings painted with leaded paint must be rehabilitated to safeguard public health,” Kofahi told The Jordan Times over the phone.

He noted that JES will launch a campaign next week to raise public awareness on the health hazards of lead, highlighting the need to phase out lead-based products and introduce alternatives and solutions.

The campaign, which will be launched on October 20, is part of International Lead Poisoning Awareness Week, organised annually during October to raise awareness about lead poisoning, highlight countries’ and partners’ efforts to prevent childhood lead poisoning and urge further action to eliminate lead paint, according to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) website.

WHO said on its website that lead poisoning is entirely preventable, yet lead exposure is estimated to account for 0.6 per cent of the global burden of disease, with the highest burden in developing regions.

Childhood lead exposure is estimated to contribute to about 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year.

The manufacture and sale of lead paint in the Kingdom will be banned before the end of this year due to its negative impact on public health and the environment, according to Environment Minister Taher Shakhshir.

The Ministry of Environment banned the use of lead-based paint in Jordan last year to safeguard people’s health.

Lead is a toxic metal, the widespread use of which has caused extensive environmental contamination and health problems in many parts of the world. It is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and renal systems, according to WHO.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and, in some cases, irreversible neurological damage, WHO said on its website.

The Kingdom shifted from leaded to unleaded fuel in early 2008 to eliminate health risks posed by lead, Kofahi said, underscoring that banning lead-based paint and products must be completely enforced.