The World Health Organisation has warned against exposing children to lead from paints containing the substance urging countries to ban lead paint by 2020.
The health body gave the warning ahead of the 2018 international lead poisoning prevention week between 21 to 27 October with focus on eliminating lead paint.
"Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint is a cooperative initiative jointly led by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme to focus and catalyse the efforts to achieve international goals to prevent children's exposure to lead from paints containing lead and to minimize occupational exposures to lead paint," WHO said in a statement on its website Wednesday.
The health agency said the objective of the alliance is to promote a phase-out of the manufacture and sale of paints containing lead and eventually to eliminate the risks that such paints pose.
Lead is a chemical substance added to paint to accelerate drying, increase durability, maintain a fresh appearance, and resist moisture that causes corrosion. It is one of ten chemicals of major public health concern.
Lead poisoning kills more than half a million people every year from long-term effects such as kidney failure, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. It can also cause brain damage.
According to WHO, lead poisoning is preventable, "yet the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (1) has estimated that, based on 2016 data, lead exposure accounted for 540 000 deaths and 13.9 million years lost to disability and death due to long-term health effects, with the highest burden in developing regions.
"Of particular concern is the role of lead exposure in the development of intellectual disability in children.
"Even though there is wide recognition of the harmful effects of lead and many countries have taken action, exposure to lead, particularly in childhood, remains of key concern to healthcare providers and public health officials worldwide.
"An important source of domestic lead exposure, particularly in children, is paint containing high levels of lead. These paints are still widely available and used in many countries for decorative purposes, although good substitutes without lead are available."
WHO also noted that in eliminating lead paint, countries will contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal targets.