“There is no compelling reason to extend the phase out period for lead-added paints to six years.”
Over 115 civil society groups and individuals hammer home this message to environment officials and regulators as the government mulls over a long delayed phase out policy on paints containing lead, one of the oldest known chemical poisons.
“We appeal to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to correct this clear case of chemical oversight and injustice by requiring paint companies to transition from lead to non-lead additives at the shortest time possible,” said Edwin Alejo, Coordinator of the EcoWasteCoalition, a non-profit citizens’ group campaigning for chemical safety and zero waste.
“Environment Secretary Paje, we hope, will seize this opportunity to make a huge impact in securing our children’s health and future against preventable lead exposure,” he added.
A draft chemical control order (CCO) for lead and lead compounds, first introduced in 2007, is currently being finalized by theDENR-EMB following stakeholders’ consultations last year.
The CCO, once approved by Secretary Paje, will set a mandatory total lead limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for decorative paints, a standard at par with that of the United States.
While commending the DENR-EMB for adopting the “practically achievable” 90 ppm lead limit, the groups were quick to reject the proposed phase-out period of six years for leaded paints.
Through a open letter sent today to DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje, Environmental Management Bureau Director Juan Miguel Cuna and staff in charge of chemicals management, the groups described the proposed six-year phase out period “as extremely long and totally questionable from the public interest point of view.”
The groups sought a more rapid implementation of the proposed ban on the use of lead in paints, particularly in decorative paints and other paints most likely to contribute to childhood lead exposure, including anti-corrosive and anti-rust paints sold for consumer use or for use in playgrounds and other locations frequented by children.
While expressing preference for a phase out period of one year or less, the groups alluded to the possibility of an 18-month phase out period, citing the phase out provision for leaded gasoline under the CleanAir Act of 1999.
Exposure to lead, a toxic metal, can have deep and lasting health effects on developing fetuses and young children who are most at risk to lead-induced neurological harm, including developmental delays, mental retardation, intelligence quotient (IQ) shortfalls, poor school performance, attention deficit disorder, aggression and other behavioral problems.
Health specialists have identified no “safe” level of lead exposure inchildren.
“The conspicuously extended phase out period of six years goes against the urgency of phasing out lead-added paint, which is globally recognized as “the world’s most common source of significant childhood lead exposure,” the groups said.
“We believe that unless the government and the society swiftly eliminate the addition of lead in paint formulations, we will end up with more individuals, particularly young children, women of child-bearing age and workers,unwittingly exposed to this chemical poison,” the groups warned
Information obtained by the EcoWaste Coalition from Prof. Scott Clark, a senior environmental health expert from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, shows that millions of American children have been poisoned in the past and currently 300,000 children are still over exposed at levels where detrimental effects occur.
The groups also said “that unless lead-added paints are removed from the market at the earliest time feasible, we will end up with more homes, schools,playgrounds and facilities contaminated with lead that will require expensive remediation measures.”
According to Clark, partial lead hazard control intervention in the US often costs an average of $10,000 per housing unit.
To show that the 90 ppm limit is “practicallyachievable,” the groups pointed out that paints with no detectable levels of lead or with lead below 90 ppm are already available for sale in the domestic market.
33.3%of the 15 enamel paint samples from the Philippines that the EcoWaste Coalitionsent to India for analysis in 2008 were found to contain lead below 90 ppm,with one product containing 3.4 ppm. The average lead content for samples exceeding the 90 ppm threshold was 28,354 ppm,with one product having 189,164 ppm of lead.
For the 35 enamel paint samples that the group sent to the USA for laboratory analysis in 2010, 31.4% had lead levels below 90 ppm,with one product having 4.5 ppm of lead. For this batch of samples, the average lead level for those with more than 90 ppm of lead was 27,504, with one product containing 161,651 ppm of lead.
Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, the EcoWaste Coalition in March 2012 detected lead above 90 ppm in 17 out of 25 enamel paint samples, with one product having 70,200 ppm of lead. Eight of the samples had no detectable levels of lead.
If approved, the CCO will also ban several uses of lead, including its use in the manufacturing of toys, school supplies and cosmetics, as a food and drink preservative, as a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) stabilizer, as glaze on food and beverage containers and utensils, and as ammunition slags, among other prohibitions.