The results of a new study that detected high levels of toxic lead — a brain-damaging chemical — in solvent-based paints applied on the interiors and exteriors of homes, schools and other child-related facilities, drew positive reactions from paint companies who committed themselves into shifting to non-lead materials.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a not-for-profit watchdog group for chemical safety and zero waste, released the “Lead in New Enamel Household Paints in the Philippines: The 2015 Report” last Thursday at an event attended by over 100 people, including educators, parents and representatives of the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers, Philippine Institute of Architects, Philippine Medical Association and the San Juan Division of City Schools.
As per laboratory analyses conducted in Europe, 97 out of the 140 solvent-based decorative paints (69 per cent) — mostly made by smaller manufacturers—had lead levels above 90 parts per million (ppm). Sixty-three of these paints contained dangerously high lead concentrations above 10,000 ppm, with four brands containing lead between 102,000 to 153,000 ppm, the report noted.
The Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds (CCO), signed by Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje in December 2013, provides for a 90 ppm total lead content limit in paints and directs a phase-out period until 2016 for leaded decorative paints and until 2019 for leaded industrial paints.
With the phase-out deadline for leaded decorative paints fast approaching, the EcoWaste Coalition has appealed to paint companies to expedite their switch to non-lead pigments and driers, as well as to tighten quality control measures to prevent lead contamination during the manufacturing process.
With these new data, the EcoWaste Coalition and the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers have jointly agreed to push all paint companies to work double-time in order to comply with the impending deadline for the removal of lead in decorative paints by 2016.
“As per our agreement with paint industry leaders, we will work together to secure compliance to the phase-out target for the sake of our children’s health and the environment,” said Jeiel Guarino, in-house chemist and Campaigner for Lead Paint Elimination, EcoWaste Coalition.
He added that six paint companies have formally expressed to conform to the CCO and convert to lead-safe paints.
Among these companies he said were Andalucia, Globesco, H-Chem, Superglobe, Times Paint and Treasure Island.
Pacific Paint (Boysen) and Davies, the two paint companies with the largest market share, have already switched to non-lead paint formulations, the EcoWaste Coalition noted.
“The effective enforcement of the CCO will make the Philippines stand out among developing countries in terms of meeting the global goal of eliminating lead paint, a major source of childhood lead exposure,” said Ambassador Guy Ledoux of the European Union, which funded the study under the 7-country IPEN Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “lead has no essential role in the human body, and lead poisoning accounts for about 0.6 per cent of the global burden of disease.” Evidence of reduced intelligence caused by childhood exposure to lead has led WHO to list “lead-caused mental retardation” as a recognized disease.
While lead exposure is harmful to adults, lead exposure harms children at much lower levels, and the health effects are generally irreversible and can have a lifelong impact.
“There is no known safe level of exposure to lead,” the WHO stated.