Answering the Global Call to Restrict Lead Paint

By Jay Monteverde

ABA ROLI's Director of Global Environmental Programming, Jay Monteverde, speaks at workshop
in Kingston, Jamaica, on Dec. 1, 2017, about how to regulate lead paint.Add caption

According to
U.N. Environment, an alarming two-thirds of countries have no restrictions on using lead in paint. By not prohibiting the use of lead in paint, these countries without legal limits risk continuous 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 almost $977 billion international dollars annually in lost productivity. Recent research has also 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 20 years later.

Therefore, this summer, the American Bar Association (ABA) passed a resolution calling on the legal profession to join a global effort to ban lead paint. In coordination with other ABA entities, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ROLI) has begun working with the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (Lead Paint Alliance) — led by U.N. Environment, the World Health Organization, and chaired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — to offer legal technical assistance to countries drafting lead paint restrictions. Kim Smaczniak, an ABA member since 2011 and Vice-Chair of Rule of Law for the ABA Section of International Law's Environmental Law Committee, led the effort to promote passage of 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.”
ABA ROLI, along with other alliance members, recently held a workshop in Kingston, Jamaica, to introduce the Lead Paint Alliance’s Model Law and Guidance and discuss with governments, regional and nongovernmental organizations, and industry stakeholders how Jamaica and the Caribbean region could ban lead paint. During lively discussion among participants, we shared 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.

Next year, ABA ROLI will expand its work on lead paint, coordinating efforts with the alliance across multiple regions as part of a global environmental program. We will raise awareness in countries lacking lead paint restrictions and offer legal resources for governments interested in passing lead paint limits. This task is immense, as each country possesses different legal frameworks, different paint industry market characteristics, and a different combination of possible lead paint regulatory mechanisms. Therefore, we will call on ABA members and legal professionals globally to help us work with stakeholders in each country to move toward a world without lead paint.

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

To learn more about our work on lead paint and our environmental programming, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at


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