Govt urged to protect children from lead poisoning
The Country Director of environmental NGO, Pure Earth, Esmond Wisdom Quansah, has urged the government to put in place stringent measures to protect children against lead exposure and poisoning because the effects are greater for them than adults.
He explained that because children's brains and bodies rapidly develop in early childhood, younger children, especially those below five years, could absorb up to five times the amount of lead that adults do.
That, Mr Quansah added, meant there was no safe level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects.
“Childhood lead poisoning can result in learning disabilities and challenges that affect children's executive functioning, impulse control and levels of aggression.
A study by the Center for Global Development suggests that more than 20 per cent of the learning gap between rich and poor countries can be attributed to elevated levels of lead in the blood,” he stressed.
Mr Quansah gave the advice last Friday at a ceremony at the Tema Parents Association School to mark this year's International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (ILPPW).
It was aimed at sensitising the children to what lead is, its effects and what to do when they came into contact with substances containing the chemical.
The ILPPW, which takes place every year during the third week of October, draws attention to the health impact of lead exposure, highlights efforts by countries and partners to prevent childhood lead exposure, and accelerates efforts to phase out the use of lead in paint.
This year’s celebration, which took place from 22-28 October, was on the theme; "End childhood Lead poisoning".
Earlier this year, a study conducted by Pure Earth, the GHS and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) across the three ecological zones of the country to compare Blood Lead Levels (BLL) in children aged one to four revealed that metal cookware, particularly locally fabricated aluminium cookware, popularly known as “Dadesen” contained lead which could leach into the food during cooking.
Other discovered sources included traditional eyeliners, known as “Chilo”, dust and soil as a result of electronic waste and exposure to Used Lead Acid Battery (ULAB) recycling and other lead-related activities.
Mr Quansah stated that the World Bank’s 2023 assessment revealed that the global cost of lead exposure was US$6.0 trillion in 2019, which was equivalent to 6.9 per cent of the global gross domestic product.
To address these issues, he advised the adoption of UNICEF’s five points action approach by calling on government to take leadership and prioritise action to assess childhood lead exposure and its sources, act decisively across sectors, develop capacities to protect children, toughen measures to reduce lead in the environment and eliminate the sources of lead poisoning.
“We would like to call on private sector organisations to ensure responsible use of lead and safe stewardship by stopping the use of lead in consumer products, ensure safe stewardship of lead in industrial applications and complying with the laws and regulations,” Mr Quansah added.
A representative from the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Caesar Nyadedzor, said lead exposure even at low levels could cause numerous health effects including gastrointestinal, haematological, neurological, cardiovascular, hepatic, renal, endocrine and reproductive, skeletal system and carcinogenic among others.
He, therefore, said the GHS was committed to its role in addressing lead poisoning in children across the country by, among others, establishing preventive and case management services for lead exposure and poisoning.
“The GHS which is already working with key stakeholders to address lead exposure and poisoning will continue to work with all stakeholders including schools and children until desired results are achieved,” he stressed