An environmentalist, Mr Emmanuel Odjam-Akumatey, has called for a ban on the use of lead and lead based products in the country.
According to him, lead which is mostly found in everyday items such as paints, exposed dry cell batteries, crayons, children toys, lip sticks as well as in mining sites and polluted environments, is one of the major public health concerns across the globe.
At a forum in Accra on Monday to mark this year’s ‘Lead action week’, which is an awareness creation event on lead poisoning on the theme “Lead free kids for a healthy future”, Mr Odjam-Akumatey, who is with Ecological Restorations, an environmental non-governmental organisation, said lead could cause liver, kidney and bones problems.
He says the lead in the body is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones. It is stored in the teeth and bones, where it accumulates over time.
Mr Odjam-Akumatey, therefore, called for preventive measures, which included the adoption of a national mandatory policy that would phase out the manufacture and sale of paints containing lead as well as prevent the importation of lead based items into the country.
He also called for the proper disposal of batteries and all other waste to ensure that they did not contaminate people.
The programme, organised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Ecological Restorations, with support from the International Persistent Organic Pollutants Elimination Network, with technical support from the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP),was aimed at joining the international community in affirming the global phase out of lead paint by 2020.
He urged the public to ensure that they procure non-lead based paints when buying on the market.
Mr Odjam-Akumatey stated that children were most at risk as the bright coloured toys they played with at home and in schools, the pencils they wrote with and the crayons they drew with, were all led based and, therefore, when injected into their systems, through the mouth, could be harmful to them in future.
Lead exposure is a particularly insidious hazard since it has the potential for causing irreversible health effects such as hypertension, central nervous system problems, anaemia, and diminished hearing acuity before the exposure is clinically recognised, he added.
Symptoms of lead poisoning
Mr George Ortsin, National Co-ordinator for Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP), in an introductory remark, said there was no known level of lead exposure that was considered safe.
High lead exposure, he said, might cause vomiting, staggering walk, muscle weakness, seizures, coma, abdominal pain and cramping, which according to him, was usually the first sign of a high, toxic dose of lead poisoning, aggressive behaviour in children, anaemia, constipation, difficulty in sleeping, headaches, irritability, loss in developmental skills, especially in young children, low appetite and energy and reduced sensations.
He said the two most common routes of human lead exposure were respiratory, due to breathing lead fumes or lead dust into the lungs and gastrointestinal, which is ingested lead through the mouth.
According to him, lead poisoning which was entirely preventable, can be minimised with policies that will control them