EU-Funded Study Finds Dangerous Levels of Lead in Household Paints Sold in Philippines

Some paint
companies in the Philippines sell paints for household use containing unsafe
levels of lead, according to a new study of lead in decorative paints released
by EcoWaste Coalition today. The report was released in observance of the first
International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action (October 20-26) and
coincided with the country’s commemoration of the “Children’s Month” and the
“Consumer Welfare Month.”

Lead in a majority of the paints analyzed exceeded the 90 parts per million
(ppm) limit proposed under a draft Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead
Compounds (CCO) prepared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Lead is a heavy metal known for its neurotoxicity that causes reduced IQs,
developmental delays, speech and language problems and other health concerns. A
recently-published New York University report about the economic impacts of
childhood lead exposure shows that low- and middle-income countries lose US
$977 billion annually due to lead-attributable IQ reduction and lifetime
economic productivity losses, with the economic cost estimated to reach over US
$15 billion in the Philippines, the second highest in Asia.[1]

At a press conference, the EcoWaste Coalition
disclosed that 75 of the 122 household enamel paint samples (61 percent)
representing 34 brands purchased from retailers in Metro Manila, Cebu City and
Davao City and sent to a government-accredited private laboratory in Italy for
testing, exceeded 90 ppm, which is also the US regulatory threshold for lead in
paint and surface coatings.  

Of these 75 household enamel paints that surpassed the proposed 90 ppm
threshold, 48 were found to have very high levels of lead greater than 10,000
ppm, including four products with extremely high lead content above 100,000
ppm. The average lead concentration of the sampled household enamel paints is
18,500 ppm, 206 times greater than the proposed regulatory standard limit of 90

“Our sampling results show that paints in the Philippines contain
brain-damaging lead and provide yet another strong basis for the DENR to
approve and enforce the CCO at once. Such action will complement and even
hasten the ongoing initiatives by the paint industry and the civil society to
push for non-lead paint production, certification and labelling,” said Jeiel
Guarino, Policy and Communications Officer, EcoWaste Coalition’s Lead Paint
Elimination Project.

Once the CCO is approved by DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje, it will set a
mandatory total lead limit of 90 ppm for all paints, and a phase out period of
three years for architectural, decorative and household paints, and six years
for industrial paints, including automotive and aviation paints.

The study was funded by the European Union who provided a PHP 80 Million grant
to support the Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project. The project is implemented
in seven countries (Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka
and Thailand). EcoWaste Coalition implements the project in the Philippines.
“Reducing exposure to lead in paints is a global public health priority.
Childhood as well as occupational exposure to lead carries huge health and
economic costs. The European Union supports the goal of the Philippine
Government to eliminate lead paints and remove the risks posed by such toxic
products, especially on children, women of child-bearing age and workers.”
stated H.E Guy Ledoux, Ambassador of the European Union to the Philippines.

“As health
experts have identified no safe blood lead level in children, the high
percentage of samples with lead surpassing the proposed 90 ppm limit at 61
percent is undeniably disturbing,” said Moresa Tolibas, Technical Officer,
EcoWaste Coalition’s Lead Paint Elimination Project.

“On the other hand, the fact that 38 percent of the paint samples, mostly
manufactured by Philippine companies, had lead content below 90 ppm indicates
that producing paints with no or low levels of lead is economically viable,
technically feasible and practically achievable,” she added.

Children are not generally exposed to lead from paint while the paint is still
in the can or even when the paint is being newly applied to a previously
unpainted or uncoated surface. Rather, the lead exposure generally occurs after
the lead paint has already dried on the wall or on the article that has been
painted, the EcoWaste Coalition said. Painted surfaces deteriorate with time or
when disturbed, and lead from the paint then contaminates household dust and
soils surrounding the home. Children can then ingest lead from dusts and soils
during customary hand-to-mouth behavior, after which neurological damage
occurs, the group explained.   


Information for the Media:

1.      The
EcoWaste Coalition purchased 122 household paint samples on November 2012 until
January 2013 from local retailers in Metro Manila, Cebu City and Davao City,
which were subsequently sent via air freight to Certottica laboratory in
Italy.  Certottica is accredited by ACCREDIA – the Italian Accreditation
System, which is the Italian National Accreditation Body appointed by the
State. This laboratory participates in the Environmental Lead Proficiency
Analytical Testing (ELPAT) program operated by the American Industrial Hygiene
Association under a program established by the US Environmental Protection

2.      The
paint brands found to contain lead below the proposed standard limit of 90 ppm
include Boysen, Canadian, Challenger, Clark Kensington, Coat Saver, Davies,
Domino, Dutch Boy, E-Z Coat, Globe, Manor, Maxi-Coat, Nation, Olympic, Rust
Stop, Season, Selleys, Sphero, Sunrise and Trucoat. However, some of the
sampled products of the above-mentioned brands have lead greater than 10,000


3.      This
is the third time that the EcoWaste Coalition had paint samples analyzed for
lead. In 2010, 24 of the 35 household enamel paints (69 percent) that the group
sent to the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, USA, contained lead
concentrations higher than 90 ppm. In 2008, 10 of the 25 enamel paint samples
(40 percent) that were analyzed in a government-accredited laboratory in New
Delhi, India, registered lead content above 90 ppm.

4.      IPEN’s
Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project is working to eliminate lead in paint
worldwide and raise widespread awareness among business entrepreneurs and
consumers about the adverse human health impacts of lead-based decorative
paints, particularly on the health of children under six years old. The seven
Asian countries participating in the project include Bangladesh, India,
Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The project includes
periodical testing of lead in paints; information and technical support to
small and medium paint manufacturers, distributors and retailers to help them
shift from lead-based to no-added lead paint formulations; third party
certification and labelling that includes information on lead; consultation
with key government institutions to enact a globally-accepted standard for lead
in paints; preparation and dissemination of information, education and
communication (IEC) materials, as well as awareness-raising activities about
lead paint and its subsequent effects on children, public health, and the environment.

lPEN is an
international NGO network with 700 participating organizations working in 116
countries that promotes safe chemical policies and practices aimed at
protecting human health and environment.

EcoWaste Coalition is a
national network of more than 150 public interest groups working on waste,
climate, chemical, social justice and development issues. It envisages a zero
waste and toxics-free Philippines and strives to attain such a vision by fostering
and supporting activism around priority concerns in line with the people’s
constitutional rights to health and to a balanced and healthful ecology.