EcoWaste Coalition Detects High Levels of Lead on Paint Brushes (Leaded Paint Brushes Not Food-Safe for Basting BBQ)

A toxics watchdog has detected lead, a
developmental and reproductive toxin, in paint brushes at levels violating
safety standard in the United States

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the EcoWaste Coalition found lead up
to 17,400 parts per million (ppm) on the painted wooden handles of 22 out of 25
brushes, way above the allowable limit of 90 ppm for lead in paint in US.

“None of the samples had precautionary labels to notify consumers
about lead and other chemicals of concern on the paint brushes,” said
Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Consumers, especially the health and safety conscious ones with strong
preference for paints with no lead additives, will be upset to buy and use
leaded paint brushes without their knowledge.  It’s unacceptable to
keep customers in the dark on matters affecting their well-being,” he

According to the group, information on chemicals in a product with matching
precautionary warning will guide consumers in making informed choices and in
preventing risks of exposure for users and non-users alike.

“Also, since paint brushes are often used as basting brushes, especially by street
vendors selling barbecued meats,  sellers and buyers should know that
leaded brushes are not food-safe and should not be used for basting food,”
Dizon added.

The 25 paint brushes, representing 14 brands with prices ranging from P12 to
P102, were obtained from 12 hardware and home improvement stores at the Araneta
Commercial Center and adjacent places in Cubao, Quezon City.

Only 3 paint brushes (Hi Tech with black plastic handle, Mansion with wooden
handle in natural varnish and Stanley with wooden handle in brown varnish) had
low or non-detectable levels of lead (see photo below).

The top 10 samples that registered with the highest levels of lead at their
yellow painted handles were Hi Tech (3”), 17,400 ppm; Lotus (2.5”), 16,500 ppm;
Camel (2”), 12,800 ppm; Panclub (1 ½), 12,700 ppm; Lotus (1”), 12,600 ppm;
Croco (2”), 10,800 ppm; no brand name (3”), 9214 ppm; Camel (3/4”), 8,931 ppm;
Butterfly (2”), 6,181 ppm; and Lotus (1”, brown handle), 5,027 ppm.

Traces of arsenic (highest: 2,104 ppm), chromium (highest: 11,200 ppm) and
mercury (highest: 81 ppm) were also detected in most of the samples.

The EcoWaste Coalition had already notified the major hardware store chains
about their findings.

In separate letters to the stores, the EcoWaste Coalition suggested that they
either voluntarily remove the leaded paint brushes off the shelves or post a
visible warning that will inform consumers about the lead content of such

The hardware stores were also urged to require their paint brush suppliers to
manufacture lead-free, non-toxic brushes.

Additionally, hardware stores should provide a warning sign next to the leaded
paint brushes that says “not fit for basting food” – or its equivalent in local
language – to prevent contamination during food preparation, the EcoWaste
Coalition said.

The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of over 150 public interest groups
pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical
issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.