August 30, 2018 ILN

ABA Joins Global Effort to Restrict Lead Paint

By Jay Monteverde

An alarming two-thirds of countries have no restrictions on using lead in paint, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. By not prohibiting the use of lead in paint, these countries without legal limits are placing individuals at risk of exposure to a known poison. Lead paint remains a key pathway for lead exposure, which is linked to myriad health and developmental problems costing low- and middle-income countries roughly $977 billion international dollars annually in lost productivity. Lead exposure is particularly harmful for young children and pregnant women because of its profound and potentially permanent adverse health effects. The legacy of lead paint also raises social and environmental justice issues. Research has linked high blood lead levels and violent behavior, showing a correlation between bans of lead in paint and gasoline with marked reductions in violent crime twenty years later. This suggests that lead paint imposes additional burdens in already disadvantaged communities and in areas of conflict.

The American Bar Association this year is expanding its work with the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (Lead Paint Alliance), a voluntary initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Health Organization and chaired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Lead Paint Alliance, its partners, and supporters are working with governments, regional and nongovernmental organizations, industry stakeholders, academia, and interested experts on identifying and implementing measures to take quick action on lead paint.

Among its activities, the ABA is helping raise awareness in countries lacking lead paint restrictions, offering legal resources to governments, convening in-country workshops to bring stakeholders together to identify appropriate solutions, delivering in-country training, and providing legal support to drafting efforts. In December 2017, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and Lead Paint Alliance partners held a workshop in Kingston, Jamaica, to introduce the Lead Paint Alliance’s Model Law and Guidance and to discuss with government officials, regional and nongovernmental organizations, and industry stakeholders how Jamaica and the Caribbean region could ban lead paint. The workshop allowed the sharing of experiences from other countries that have recently banned lead paint and explored with participants opportunities for Jamaica and the region to take quick action on lead paint. All participants agreed with the urgent need to ban lead paint.

ABA ROLI, through providing hands-on assistance to countries around the world, serves as the focal point for implementing the ABA resolution on lead paint adopted in 2017. The resolution urged governments worldwide to adopt laws to phase out the manufacture, import, and sale of lead paint. It also urged lawyers, law firms, bar associations, and other professional and nonprofit organizations to provide pro bono support, educational initiatives, and other activities to help support the adoption and implementation of laws to phase out and eliminate lead paint. See Resolution 109B (2017).

The ABA Section of International Law sponsored the resolution. Sara P. Sanford, the Chair of the Section when the resolution was submitted to the House of Delegates said, “Through the resolution, the ABA advances its Goal IV on Rule of Law, by supporting the adoption of just laws.” She pointed out that the resolution builds on a 2007 ABA resolution urging governments and stakeholders to consider and integrate Rule of Law initiatives with global environmental issues, and on a 2003 ABA resolution, reaffirmed in 2013, on sustainable development.

Kim Smaczniak, the Vice Chair of Rule of Law for the Section's Environmental Law Committee, led the committee effort to draft and advance the ABA resolution, which represents a statement of official ABA policy.

"We know how to make paints without lead, [and] we know the health consequences of lead exposure,” said Smaczniak. “What the world is lacking is good laws. Therefore, the ABA can and should show leadership by example, and help to marshal the resources within the legal profession to support a solution. The ABA lead paint policy paves the way to do exactly that. I hope the policy inspires ABA leaders, committees, and members to look for ways we can make a concrete contribution toward the goal of achieving global adoption of measures to address lead paint."

Get Involved

Help the ABA answer the global call to restrict lead paint. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative continues to receive requests from countries for legal technical support to restrict lead paint. Your help is needed so we can make a difference.

ABA members are needed for pro bono projects to help countries draft and review proposed laws, regulations, and guidelines to restrict the manufacture, sale, and importation of lead paint. Lawyers with expertise in specific countries or regions are particularly needed to support effective and sustainable solutions. Each country possesses different legal frameworks, different paint industry market characteristics, and a different combination of possible lead paint regulatory mechanisms.

With ABA members and legal professionals working with stakeholders in each country, we can achieve swift and effective progress on the global goal of greatly reducing, and eventually eliminating, the dangers from exposure to lead paint.

To get involved in the ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s work on lead paint, please send an e-mail with your expression of interest and the subject line "ABA Lead Paint Pro Bono Projects" to Jay Monteverde, ABA ROLI Director of Global Environmental Programming, at:

Jay Monteverde is the Director of Global Environmental Programming for the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative.