Quezon City. As Filipino children long for the most joyous occasion of gift-giving on Christmas Day, health and environmental advocates bid for possibly the best gift that will safeguard kids’ health: the elimination of lead in paints.
“The Lead in New Decorative Household Paints: A Global Study,” conducted by the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), found lead in 80% of the paint samples that were purchased by participating groups from 10 countries, including the Philippines and tested in a government-accredited laboratory in India.
Professor Scott Clark, a visiting scientist from the University of Cincinnati who has done extensive research on lead in paints, said that the test results provided fresh evidence on the widespread production and sale of paints with added lead.
Lead is one of the oldest known poisons and some lead free paints were available at least since the late 1800s. Prof. Clark and many others have devoted decades dealing with the legacy of the use of more than six million tons of lead in paint in USA which has poisoned millions of children and is costing billions of dollars to reduce health risks in houses.
“The new data on lead in household paints should elicit global and national campaigns and partnerships for the removal of lead in paints. As paint use increases as economies expand, it would be horrible and utterly unnecessary to see a legacy created of the poisoning of millions of children and others. Alternatives to lead use in paints have been available and widely used for more than 60 years,” Prof. Clark stated.
“You have succeeded in phasing out the use of lead in automotive fuels and I’m sure you can do it again with paints and do away with this very avoidable toxic threat, especially to children’s health,” he added.
Out of the 25 paint samples from the Philippines, 15 of which were enamel and 10 plastic paints, 40 percent registered lead concentrations higher than 90 ppm and 36 percent higher than 600 ppm.
One sample showed extremely elevated levels of lead at 189,163.5 ppm that is far beyond the recommended limit of 90 ppm.
Enamel samples of Boysen, Hudson, Mana, Popular and Sphero brands that were tested had low lead concentrations, while enamel samples of Coat Saver, Davies Gloss, Dutch Boy, Globe, Master, Nation, Olympic and Welcoat were found to have high lead concentrations.
“Lead is a poison and it should not be present in paint or other products to which children are exposed,” said Paeng Lopez of the EcoWaste Coalition. “Unlike adults who have the capability to protect themselves from harmful substances, children can not ordinarily tell safe objects from hazardous ones. In their imaginary world, colorful dust or chipped paint is as harmless as a Tinkerbelle’s pixie dust or Gretel’s bread crumbs. It is therefore morally incumbent upon us to protect the children from any potential harm.”
For her part, pediatrician and environmental health expert Dr. Irma Makalinao stated that lead can adversely impede a child’s brain and body development and health, stressing that “child lead poisoning should be taken seriously, and parents should be aware of possible pathways of exposure including lead paint in one’s home.”
Lead causes irreversible nervous system damage and decreased intelligence at extremely low doses. Lead exposure in childhood has been associated with lower vocabulary and grammatical-reasoning scores, increased absenteeism, poorer eye-to-hand coordination, and lower class standing in high school. The US EPA has determined that lead is a probable human carcinogen.
According to the World Health Organization (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.” One of the largest causes of lead exposure is lead-contaminated dust from decaying paint. Lead ingestion and poisoning typically occurs through hand-to-mouth activity.
To address this lead threat, the EcoWaste Coalition, together with the International POPs Elimination Network and Toxics Link, have launched the “Children’s Health First: Eliminate Lead Paint” global campaign.
“This campaign seeks to champion children’s health and safety by eliminating lead paint and promoting safe alternatives through the ‘Global Partnership to Eliminate Lead from Paint’ under SAICM,” said Manny Calonzo, IPEN Co-Hub for Southeast Asia.
SAICM or the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management is a global policy and strategy adopted by governments and stakeholders in 2006 to change how chemicals are produced and used in order to minimize harmful effects on public health and the environment.
IPEN is a global public interest NGO network with more than 700 participating oganizations in over 100 countries and in all regions.
IPEN works with NGOs around the world, including the EcoWaste Coalition, toward a future where toxic chemicals no longer cause harm to human health or to the environment.
Additional information for the media:
1. Please see the Executive Summary of the report at:
For more information, about the campaign, please log on to:
2. The countries where the 317 paint samples were collected are: Sri Lanka, Philippines, Thailand, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, Belarus, Mexico, and Brazil.
3. Key findings: The average new paint lead concentration in the ten counties studied ranged from 4091 pm to 38,970, many times higher than the recommended limit of 90 ppm. For seven of the countries, the average was greater than 10,000 ppm. With a few exceptions, all water-based plastic paint samples had low lead concentrations; often below 90 ppm.
4. Key recommendations: mandatory national regulations for limiting lead oncentrations in paints must be enacted in developing countries.
– A proper monitoring plan to ensure that industries comply with standards should be in place.
– It is also important to determine the extent of lead contamination of dust in existing houses in order to develop sound programs to reduce exposure to lead.
– A mass campaign should be launched to make people aware of hazards associated with lead.
– A partnership among the civil society organizations and other stakeholders in the developing region of the world is sina qua non to ensure that lead is eventually eliminated from paints worldwide.