Before the dangers of lead were known, it was a common ingredient in house paint, where it acted as a pigment and increased durability. Though banned for use in paint in the U.S. in 1978, millions of homes, schools, and businesses still have lead based paint on their walls, both inside and out. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, lead paint can be found in:
- 24% of homes built from 1960-1978
- 69% of homes built from 1940-1960
- 87% of homes built before 1940
If the paint is in good condition and has been painted over, it usually doesn’t pose a problem. But if the paint is peeling or has been disturbed by scraping, sanding, or burning, it can pose significant health risks to people and pets, especially young children.
The case for Tanzania
Back in 2016, the Tanzania Bureau of Standards’ Acting Director General, Engineer Edna Ndumbaro, announced that Tanzania would, over the next four years, remove all paints with lead substances from the market.
As the promised year comes to a close, much remains to be determined as to how successful the TBS was in ridding the country of lead based paint or even raising awareness of the dangers of lead based paints.
At the time of the pledge, the government representatives from Kenya and Tanzania also agreed to work to revise the lead limit of the current East African Community (EAC) standards on various types of paint to 90 ppm total lead.
These announcements were made at a two-day East Africa Workshop on the Development of National and Regional Regulations and Standards for Lead in Paint held in Dar es Salam, Tanzania.
Thanks to that meeting, it was agreed that the EAC standards that were adopted that year, must be implemented nationally by the five Community countries (Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda).
“Because of its hazardous properties, the limit of lead in paint will be legally binding in all EAC countries, coming into force within 1-3 years,” it was resolved.
Acknowledging the leadership of the EAC in adopting a mandatory standard limiting the use of lead in paint, Tanzanian officials agreed to develop a justification to amend the lead limit in the EAC paint standard by October 2016.
“No safe level of lead exposure has been established. Lead paint is a major route for lead exposure, especially in children. Estimated reduced cognitive potentials due to preventive childhood exposure translate to 134.7 billion US dollars of economic loss to Africa,” Ms. Ndumbaro said.
Symptoms and Health Risks from Lead Poisoning
1 Lead can enter the bloodstream by ingesting contaminated dust, eating paint chips, or breathing fumes or dust from sanding or torching. Symptoms include:
- Hearing problems
- Muscle and joint pain
- High blood pressure
- Trouble with digestion
- Reproductive problems
- Difficulties in pregnancy
- Loss of memory and concentration
Children, especially those under two years old, are extremely sensitive to lead. In addition to the health problems listed above, children exposed to lead may develop:
- Damage to the brain and nervous system
- Reduction in I.Q. levels
- Learning disorders
- Behavioural problems
- Slowed growth
Testing for Lead
Before attempting renovation on older homes or painting that involves scraping or sanding, you should have the paint in the house tested for lead. Testing can be done:
- In your home by a professional service using X-ray fluorescence
- By sending paint chips to a laboratory for testing
- Using a do-it-yourself test kit with Sodium sulfide: Work as well all paints except dark colours or Rhodizonate: Works well on all paints except red colours.
Living with Lead Paint
If your house contains lead paint but is not peeling, chalking, or chipping, take the follow precautions to keep your family safe:
- Have children tested for lead.
- Keep floors and woodwork clean. Use a vacuum with a HEPA and change the bag and filter regularly. Damp mop floors and sponge off woodwork using warm, soapy water, rinsing often.
- Wash children’s hands, toys, bottles, stuffed animals and pacifiers regularly.
- Prevent children from peeling loose paint, eating paint chips, or chewing painted surfaces.
Lead Paint Removal
When taking on a remodelling or painting project in a house that has lead paint, the best course of action is to hire a contractor that is trained and certified in lead removal.
You should consider moving out while the renovation is going on or at least have the contractor completely seal off the area under construction from the rest of the house and disconnect any HVAC ductwork that could spread dust throughout the home.
If you plan to attempt the work yourself, follow these guidelines:
- Seal off the area using plastic sheets.
- Disconnect heating/cooling ducts to the area under renovation.
- Remove all furniture, food, and other items from the construction area.
- Cover the floor with tarps or plastic.
- Avoid sanding, torching, grinding, sandblasting, or using a heat gun on surfaces containing lead paint.
- Clean up the construction area often using a HEPA filter vacuum and damp mop.
- Wear a NIOSH certified respirator with a HEPA filter that is made for use with lead.
- Wash hands often, especially before eating.