Lead watchdog says 71pc of paints sold in Kenya pose danger to users

Wednesday July 05 2017

Not many paint users know which brands contain dangerous amounts of lead. PHOTO FILE | NATION


There is a 71 per cent chance that the coat of paint on your house wall contains dangerously high amounts of lead, a new report says.

The report, released by environmental watchdog Centre for Environment Justice and Development (Cejad), says 71 per cent or 15 out of 21 paint brands sold in Kenya have lead concentrations of above 10,000 parts per million (ppm, dry weight of paint).

At least 19 out of the 21 analysed brands, accounting for 90 per cent, manufacture and release into the market at least one paint with total lead concentration above 90ppm, the strictest legal limit in the world.

Users of these paints have no way of knowing which paints contain lead as labels barely carry information about lead content or the hazards of lead paint.

Only 6 per cent or 3 out of 51 paints provide little or no information about lead or any other harmful ingredients on can labels.

A United Nations Environment Program resolution in 2015 agreed that African countries should adopt a lead limit for all paints of 90ppm. Paints with lead concentration above 90ppm have not been been in use in Western countries for almost 40 years.


Government officials and stakeholders from 15 African countries agreed to co-operate to phase out lead in paint by 2020.

“The highest lead concentration of 160,000ppm was detected in a yellow paint produced by Molar Enamel Paint for home use, and advertised as “lead-free”. These are levels as high as 16 per cent of the paint, and almost 18,000 times the allowed limit of 90ppm,” said Griffins Ochieng, the executive director of CEJAD.
The 90ppm is also the maximum allowed level in two paint standards adopted, but yet to be gazetted by Kenya Bureau of Standards.

According to Jeiel Guarino, a lead paint elimination campaigner, the practice is common in most African countries that have no established national laws, regulations or standards prohibiting the lead content in paints.

Lead is added to paints for pigmentation, quick drying and as a catalyst to avoid corrosion. Lead exposure is harmful to adults, but harms children and pregnant mothers even more.