EcoWaste Coalition Pushes Phase Out of Lead in Paints

Quezon City. After eliminating lead in gasoline sold in all service stations throughout the country, a waste and pollution watchdog now wants the government to focus its energy in phasing out lead in paints.

The EcoWaste Coalition proposed a “national partnership” to phase out leaded paints after 19 of the 25 assorted paint samples that the group sent to India as part of an international investigation on lead in paints showed high concentrations of lead.

The group has partnered with India-based Toxics Link and US-based International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) to find out the lead concentrations in major paint brands available in 10 developing countries, including the Philippines.

Test results confirmed that leaded paints are still being produced and sold in countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, exposing children and communities to this toxic substance.

Citing data from the newly-released report “Global Study to Determine Lead in New Decorative Paints in 10 Countries,” the EcoWaste Coalition revealed that out of the 25 household paint samples from the Philippines, 10 samples had lead concentrations higher than 90 ppm while nine samples had lead concentrations higher than 600 ppm.

Countries across Europe and North America have imposed bans and controls to eliminate lead in paints, with the US recently revising the maximum allowable concentration of lead in new paints from 600 ppm to 90 ppm.

Rei Panaligan, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, provided interesting details of the test results of paint samples that the group bought from paint stores located in Makati City and Quezon City in December 2008 and subsequently sent via air freight to New Delhi for testing in an accredited laboratory:

– – -Oil-based enamel paint samples contain high concentrations of lead with average lead concentration at 28,353.6 ppm.

– – – Water-based latex paint samples have low concentration of lead with no sample higher than 90 ppm.

– – – The highest lead concentration found is 189,163.5 ppm for an orange quick drying enamel paint, and the lowest at 0.6 ppm for three latex type paints.

“The test results should provoke honest-to-goodness action to inform the public about the hazards posed by lead in paints and the urgency of replacing this toxic metal with safer substitutes,” Panaligan said.

Lead, a heavy metal, is a known neurotoxicant that has been blamed for reduced intelligence quotients, developmental delays, speech and language problems and other health issues, especially in growing children.

“Our country has succeeded in phasing out lead in automotive fuels. It is high time now that we initiate a new national partnership involving the government, the paint industry, public interest groups and the consumers to enforce a mandatory national regulation for the removal of lead in paints,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s proposal follows IPEN’s initiative for a global partnership to eliminate lead in paints at the ongoing conference in Geneva to review the progress of implementing the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

The movement for lead-free paints has been gaining grounds with the Group of Eight (G8) environment ministers, meeting last April in Italy, agreeing to promote “the rapid phase out of lead in paint” to protect children’s health.

A new fact sheet on lead published by the EcoWaste Coalition stressed the importance of taking precautionary measures to prevent or reduce exposure to this toxic chemical. Five of these measures are:

a. Do not give children toys, childcare articles and school supplies containing lead or lead-based paint.

b. Ask your favorite toy shop or book store to offer only safe and toxics-free products.

c. Watch out for recalled and banned toys from US and other countries that were pulled out due to high lead contents and other safety issues.

d. Choose lead-free paints.

e. If you suspect that lead-based paint was used on your house, have this covered by lead-free paint or wallpaper, and keep children away from peeling paint.

The EcoWaste Coalition called for phase out of lead in paints in conjunction with the “Toxic Awareness and Action Week” that is being observed from May 9-15 by several groups to press for concerted response against chemical pollution.