Known by its symbol Pb and atomic number 82, lead has been linked to widespread environmental pollution, human exposure and health problems affecting not only the nervous system, but also the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, hematologic and renal systems.
In a press statement, the EcoWaste Coalition, a group promoting chemical safety, disclosed that 24 of the 35 paint samples (69%) that the group bought in local hardware shops and sent to the University of Cincinnati (UC) in Ohio, USA for testing exceeded the US lead in paint standard of 90 parts per million (ppm). More than one-half of the samples had lead levels greater than 100 times the US standard.
This is the second time that the EcoWaste Coalition had paint samples analyzed for lead. In 2009, 40% of the 25 Philippine paint samples that were tested in a government accredited laboratory in New Delhi, India recorded lead concentrations higher than 90 ppm.
Although the average lead concentration was similar in both testings (over 300 times the US standard), new information was revealed in the findings being reported at this time.
Two brands that were tested were not in the earlier testing and three of five samples of one brand (Manor) and all five samples of another brand (Triton) had high levels of lead. Three brands whose paints were low in lead in the earlier testing were found to have high levels in samples of different colors analyzed in the current testing: one green paint sample from Boysen, one yellow paint from Challenger and four (blue, green, red, yellow) from Sphero. The yellow paint from Sphero contained a whopping 161,700 ppm, the highest found in the current testing.
Most of the enamel paints from Coat Saver, Nation and Welcoat had high concentrations of lead as they did in the earlier study. Only the paint from one company, Popular, was found to have a low concentration of lead; however, since only a single white sample was analyzed in each testing, the lead concentration of other colors is not known.
“The high concentrations of lead in our paints underscore the need for a national regulation that will curb the presence of this toxic substance in paints to make them safe for children who are most vulnerable to lead poisoning,” said Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition.
“The fact that more than one-third of the paints tested (12 out of 35)meet the current US standard (including a yellow paint, a color that is often high in lead) is evidence that substitutes for lead in paint do exist in the Philippines and that it is technologically and economically feasible to manufacture high-quality paints sans lead additives”, said Prof. Scott Clark of the Univesity of Cincinnati.
Prof. Clark, who visited the Philippines in December 2009, co-chairs the legislation and regulation focal area of the WHO/UNEP Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paints and advises the EcoWaste Coalition on its advocacy to do away with lead in paints for children’s health.
As part of its chemical safety agenda, the EcoWaste Coalition will conduct further laboratory analysis of household paints in the hope of raising consumer awareness as well as instigating regulatory action to eradicate lead in paints.
“With the technical and scientific support we are getting from Prof. Clark and the environmental and health researchers in UC, we hope to continue monitoring the local paint industry’s efforts to phase out and eliminate leaded paints for the sake of the Filipino children,” Calonzo said.
According to the WHO Healthy Environments for Children Alliance, “there is no known safe blood lead level but it is known that, as lead exposure increases, the range and severity of symptoms and effects also increases.”
Lead exposure in childhood, mainly through the ingestion of lead-containing dust from crumbling paint, has been linked with reading and learning disabilities, lower vocabulary and grammatical-reasoning scores, reduced IQ and attention span, increased absenteeism, poorer eye-to-hand coordination, and lower class standing in school.
Young children are most vulnerable to ingesting lead dust because they place hands and other objects like toys in their mouths, causing lead to be absorbed into their growing bodies and interfering with the development of the brain and other organs and systems.
Pregnant women and women of child-bearing age are also at risk because lead can be passed from a pregnant mother to her unborn child when lead crosses the placenta and thus affecting the fetus.
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