By Aisha Tamba
The Young Volunteers for the Environment (YVE) The Gambia have commenced the fight to end importation and usage of lead paints in the country.
YVE is a youth-oriented environmental non-profit making organization, aimed at “involving youth (and marginalised groups) in the sustainable development process and promote social justice for all”.
Disclosing the latest development at a press conference at the YVE office in Churchill’s Town, Joe Bongay, executive director of YVE, said the usage of lead paints has become a global issue.
“Lead is one of the main health and environmental hazards associated with paint. Whereas other countries have regulations prohibiting it, in some countries like The Gambia, lead continues to be added to paint intended for domestic use,” he noted.
He said as part of efforts to discourage Gambians from using lead paints his organisation has conducted a comprehensive research with IPEN on the lead paint and the samples have been sent to the US for further tests.
“After the test we intend to engage the government through the national assembly to stop the importation of lead paints and all other contaminated paints deemed to be hazardous to the environment and the human race,” he said.
Meanwhile, the YVE communications officer, Ejatou Jaiteh said lead poisoning has become a global concern in 2009, “When the Second Session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM2), passed a resolution identifying lead in paint as an emerging policy issue.”
She said the resolution endorsed a global partnership to promote phasing out the use of lead in paints, and invited the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to serve as the secretariat for this global partnership which was named the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP).
YVE, she said is determine to see the banning of production and use of lead chemical, Persistent Organic Pollutants, POPs, and other chemicals of equivalent concern; promote children’s health as a paramount goal; achieve fundamental reform of current national chemicals laws, policies, and practices in all countries; promote the integration of chemical safety considerations into the poverty reduction strategies and development agendas amongst others.
The World Health Organization, she added: “Lists lead exposure as one of the top ten environmental health threats globally. Lead paint exposure causes severe mental and physical impairment such as reduced IQ, learning disabilities, hypertension, seizures, and muscle weakness and growth delays.”
She said the elimination of lead paint will significantly reduce the risk of lead exposure to particularly the most vulnerable, and thus reduces risks of human health to lead in The Gambia.
“Despite the hazardous effects of lead poisoning, only 36 percent of countries have legally binding limits on lead paint according to the 2016 UNEP report. This suggests a significant gap still needs to be filled to achieve the target on time. We are working towards the global target which has been set for all countries to have lead paint controls by 2020,” she concluded.