Opinion: Lead paint

POSTED: 10/23/13 8:07 PM

The Parliament of Sint Maarten will be embarking upon an open house within the next two weeks.  During the weekly open house, members of civil society will learn about the separation of powers between the executive (Council of Minsters) and the legislative (Parliament) branches of government and the roles they play in lawmaking.

The parliament is in its fourth year since the birth of Country Sint Maarten on 10-10-10 and before the next constitutionally due elections.  Various pieces of legislation have been tabled during the past three years that came from the former parliament of the Netherlands Antilles and still had to be formalized.

There have been some new initiative law efforts and this is still an ongoing process.   In the remaining months of the fourth sitting of parliament, parliamentarians can still research and draft initiative laws that could be handled by the fifth sitting for the parliamentary year 2014-2015.

The country’s existing laws forms the foundation that guide the governing and functioning of society in our democratic constitutional system.  However, some laws date back to the 1900s and much has changed since then.  These laws need to be brought in line with today’s societal trends.  Therefore, parliamentarians have to be up to speed on current and emerging issues that impact public policy and society overall.

One current issue that impacts all countries around the world including Sint Maarten is lead paint.  Countries have been called upon to strengthen national actions to eliminate lead paint, a major source of potential poisoning for young children that causes some 600,000 new cases of intellectual disabilities each year, according to the World Health Organization.

Lead poisoning remains one of the most important environmental health concerns for children globally, and lead paint is a major flash point for children’s potential lead poisoning.  According to the World Health Organization, exposure to lead paint can be entirely stopped through a range of measures to restrict the production and use of lead paint.

This week is International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action under the theme: “Lead-free kids for a healthy future.”  Lead paint can be found in the home, on toys, furniture and on other objects.  Decaying lead paint on walls, furniture and other interior surfaces creates lead-contaminated dust in the home that young children easily ingest.

Young children are also exposed to lead by putting lead-painted toys and other objects in their mouths.  The sweet taste of lead paint means that some children even pick off and swallow small chips of paint.  An estimated 143,000 deaths per year result from lead poisoning, with lead paint a major contributor.

Exposure to lead creates health problems for many years into the future.  Even in countries that have banned leaded paint decades previously, such paint continues to be a source of exposure until it is finally stripped and replaced.  Alternatives to lead paint are readily available.  Worldwide, 30 countries have already phased out the use of lead paint.  The aforementioned Global Alliance has set a target of 70 countries by 2015.

The Parliament of Sint Maarten could add the country to the list – lead-free paint Sint Maarten – but first parliament would have to do some research to see to what extent the product of lead paint is available via retailers and wholesalers.

At high levels of exposure, lead affects brain development in children, resulting in reduced IQ, behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment.  These effects are believed to be irreversible.  Adults are at increased risk of kidney disease and raised blood pressure.

It is in our own interests that of the children of the nation to do something about lead paint.

Roddy Heyliger


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