Tunis/Tunisia — The paint industry in Tunisia, particularly those who continue to manufacture lead-based household paints "do not care about the health of their consumers."
They have not called for speeding up the implementation of the draft law setting the limit of harmful heavy metals, including lead and cadmium, in these paints, during a consultation meeting with civil society, organised on April 4 by the Ministry of the Environment, reported the Association of Environmental Education for Future Generations (AEEFG).
According to this association, which represents the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) in the MENA region, the Chamber of Paint Industries requested another 6 months to conduct a study on the impact of the already prepared draft law on the activity of paint manufacturers.
The civil society is "dismayed and disappointed" by the recent position of the chamber of paint industries, reads a press release issued on April 8 by the AEEFG, which urges consumers to use only household paints that are labeled "lead-free" to preserve their health and that of their relatives.
"We wonder why this study has not been launched since 2018, following the first meeting that took place and called for the implementation of the law to eliminate lead?," wonder the civil society representatives.
The draft law already provides for a grace period to switch to alternatives to lead.
"The paint industry must protect the health of the population and its direct and indirect consumers, especially since domestic paint is a product used by all Tunisian households.
In fact, some 30 samples of Tunisian brands of paint are high in lead, according to analyses carried out by the AEEFG with the support of the "IPEN" network, as part of an international project implemented since 2009.
"These paints would not normally be allowed to be sold or used in the United States or in developed countries as well as in some African and Arab countries," warned the civil society.
The Ministry of the Environment took the lead in implementing the draft law on the elimination of lead in paint after a national study launched by National Agency for Sanitary and Environmental Control of Products (ANCSEP) on lead in paints sold on the Tunisian market.
The Ministers of Environment and Health had reiterated the importance of this law for the protection of health and the environment, during a workshop organised in November 2021.
According to the AEEGF, " There can be no good reason for a paint manufacturer to continue to produce paints with lead compounds, especially when there are cost-effective substitutes for all the lead compounds that are used in the manufacture of paints and which have been widely available since the 1980s and even before."
It further urges the Chemical Technical Centre to play its part in implementing a programme to upgrade the lead-based paint industry to environmentally responsible paints.
For the record, the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies lead as one of the 10 chemicals of serious public health concern and calls for action by Member States to protect the health of workers, children and women of childbearing age.
Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead, which can have serious and lasting consequences for their health, especially for brain and nervous system development.