Government Urged to Protect Children from Lead Exposure

Civil society organizations today urged the government to prioritize action that will protect children from being poisoned by lead, a neurotoxic chemical, in paint products.

The EcoWaste Coalition and its over 125 member groups issued the appeal as the UN-declared “Universal Children’s Day” is marked on November 20.

“Reducing the health hazards posed by lead-added paint products should be a top priority for the government,” said Manny Calonzo, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee.

“By prioritizing action against this toxic threat, the Aquino presidency will be remembered in history for enabling a safer, lead-free environment where children, a highly vulnerable sector, can live, study and play,” he emphasized.

“Children and their parents will surely be grateful to P-Noy for taking a decisive action to eliminate lead in paint products,” he added.

Children, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized, are extremely prone to ingesting lead-containing paint chips and dust because they explore their surroundings a lot and routinely put their hands and objects like toys in their mouths.

Usual hand-to-mouth activities can cause lead and other substances of concern to be absorbed into their growing bodies and impede the development of vital organs, particularly the brain.

Despite being banned in the United States since 1977, lead and lead compounds are still added as anti-corrosive pigments and driers to architectural or household paint formulations by some paint manufacturers.

A test commissioned in 2010 by the EcoWaste Coalition to determine levels of lead in paint products sold locally showed that 69% of the 35 samples were found to contain huge amounts of lead with one sample containing 161,700 parts per million (ppm) of the toxic metal.

The US regulatory limit for lead in paint under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 is 90 ppm.

The World Health Organization has ascertained that there is no safe level of childhood lead exposure, the toxics watchdog pointed out.

The group cited a resolution adopted by the Asia-Pacific region at an international meeting on sound management of chemicals held in Belgrade, Serbia on November 15-18 affirming the health risks linked with lead exposure.

Representatives of the Philippine government and civil society took part in the said meeting.

“Childhood and occupational lead exposure may increase lifelong violent behavior, decrease intelligence as measured by intelligence quotient (IQ) scores, and also decrease school performance and educational achievement,” the resolution said.

The resolution further encouraged concerned countries to prioritize actions to eradicate lead paints and to establish controls on paint used in products.

The meeting also expressed support to an “International Lead Poisoning Prevention Day,” with an initial focus on getting rid of lead in paints.

Top manufacturers currently producing decorative paints containing lead can easily reformulate their products and produce, at a similar price, non-lead paints with similar colors and performance characteristics, the resolution noted.


Reference re Asia-Pacific resolution on lead in paint: