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03.04.2007 Crime & Punishment

Ban Lead-Based Products

A Chemist, Mr Matey Doku, has called for a complete ban on lead-based products in the country, particularly paints that contain lead.

Mr Doku stated that the substance was the source of grievous problems in humans as it had toxic properties and also retarded the mental development of children.

In a paper made available to the Daily Graphic, Mr Doku said when lead-based paints were destroyed during maintenance of buildings it created invisible and odourless toxic substances which could cause poisoning when humans are exposed to it.

“Lead particles or dust can be unknowingly moved, brought into the home, the car or workplace and harm anyone that is exposed to it,” he said.

The Ghana Standards Board (GSB) has directed paint manufacturers and importers in the country to ensure that lead contents in oil and enamel paints are reduced to only 0.06 per cent.

According to the board, there were new technologies for oil paints which did not have lead as a drying agent, and it was important that the local paint industry passed on the benefits of the new technologies to the public.

Mr Doku said lead should not be allowed in paints because it often produced the lead dust that settled on floors, where children often played.

“Even in very small doses, lead poisoning can retard mental and physical development. Children suffer from reduced attention span and heightened excitability, both of which lead to learning difficulties,” he said.

In expectant mothers, the substance results in low birth weight, premature birth and a higher risk of miscarriage, while in adults lead poisoning causes irritability, reproductive problems, including low sperm count and damage to the red blood cells, among others.

The chemist stated that elsewhere, despite the low percentage use of the substance in paints, various government agencies and non-governmental organisations deemed it necessary to introduce additional legislation on lead-based paints.

Those included legal guidelines on how leaded paints should be handled right from its scraping till disposal, and said the seriousness of the havoc it could cause dictated that a complete ban be placed on lead based paints.

When reached for comments, the Executive Director of the GSB, Mr Adu Darkwa, said although lead was poisonous, it was also an important ingredient in some products.

He said the directive on lead was, therefore, product-specific and in the case of paints, emulsion paints contained no lead, but only up to 0.06 per cent lead was required in oil and enamel paints.

Mr Darkwa said there were paints on the market that had lead levels below 0.06 per cent and that it wanted all paint manufacturers and importers to maintain the required minimum amount so as to pass on the technological benefits to consumers and the general public.

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