An analysis of almost all face-paints used in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in collaboration with the University of Nairobi revealed all contained lead, a toxic metal whose poisoning is a global public health concern.
A study published in the East and Central African Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences (Vol 22, No.1, 2019) by MOH's National Quality Control Laboratory cautioned Kenyans against face-painitng, citing the immense danger it poses to children.
"Children are at most risk of lead poisoning and the health effects of poisoning are more severe in children who are still developing," the report reads in part.
The authors argue that face-painting of children under the age of six years is of particular concern beacuse of their "frequent hand-to-mouth and object-to-mouth behaviours which exposes them to toxicity by ingestion."
The study report showed that 59 out of the 74 samples of the paints collected in Nairobi were found to contain lead.
"There is no safe level of lead in the body and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set the intervention level at a venous blood level of 10 µg/dL in children," the report adds.
Face paints have for a long time been some sort of customary tradition in almost all Nairobi parks. For most children, a painting of their most treasured insigni marked a good day at the park.
The study has revealed that Nairobians might be unknowingly exposing children to a serious health risk which is of major significance as the festive season rolls in and the long third-term break for primary school students.
According to the report the primary and secondary packaging of the paints were inspected for labelling and a majority of them bore no batch numbers, manufacturer identity, expiry date or instructions for use.
To facilitate the study Samples were collected in May 2018.
All available facepaint brands were purchased from each of the outlets visited in the locations identified; upmarket malls such as The Hub and Galleria as well as the outlets in the Central Business District such as Kijabe Street and River Road.
Sample collection was terminated when no new brands or colours were found in the retail outlets.
"There was no correlation noted between the color and lead content as each color analysed had a range of lead contents," the study concludes giving little indication of what the authors perceived to be the safer colours.