Around 16 million children in the country are being exposed to lead annually, which may curb their neurodevelopment and also result in the development of other physical and mental disorders, said participants at a webinar on Thursday.
Any level of lead exposure can be harmful to human health, while children are more vulnerable. But Bangladesh has a lack of regulation over the use of lead in several goods, especially paints, they opined.
The participants disclosed these alarming facts at the webinar titled "Ban lead paint: Update and implement regulation for all leaded paints," organised by Environment and Social Development Organisation (Esdo).
The event was held to mark the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week 2020.
Shockingly, one in every two kids is exposed to lead in the household and outside paints, stated Sayda Shejuti, an Esdo official, while presenting the keynote paper.
Lead exposure may curb the neurodevelopment of a child, may reduce intelligence, shorten attention, reduce performance ability, and increase antisocial behaviour, she added.
Alongside neuro complications, lead exposure may create hypertension and also can damage kidneys, said Shejuti.
Currently, 90 parts per million (ppm) lead is being used in paint in Bangladesh, which is considered safe by the World Health Organisation, she further said.
The nation may produce an unfit generation if the lead cannot be controlled, warned Professor Dr Md Abul Hasem, former director (chemical) of the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI).
Using lead in paints should be reduced to zero gradually in Bangladesh, he added.
Arun Mitra, a member of Bangladesh Paint Manufacturer's Association (BPMA), said, "Children are exposed to lead not only by paint but also by aluminum crockeries and GI (Galvanised Iron) pipe for water supply."
He continued, "In paints, lead mainly come from two pigments – orange and yellow, and we have already stopped using those pigments."
However, the BPMA has 37 members, but many other paint manufacturers remain unlisted, which cannot be regulated, he added.
To encourage lead-free paint production, the government should ease the import duty for the lead-free raw materials, he suggested at the event.
Stressing on public awareness, Keya Khan, joint secretary to the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, said, "Everybody has to work together to make a lead-free country."
Formulating rules and enforcing it is crucial, and the imported products should be lead tested before released, she added.