06 October 2011

Citizens' Groups Push for Expedited Elimination of Lead-Added Paint

As the nation marks the “Chidren’s Month” and the “Consumer Welfare Month” this October, citizens’ groups renewed their appeal to both the government and the industry to decisively move toward removing lead, a highly toxic chemical, in paint formulations.

Led by the EcoWaste Coalition, a toxic watchdog, over 20 groups today wrote to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Education (DepEd) and the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers, Inc. (PAPM) to push for an expedited elimination of lead input in architectural, decorative or household paints.

The letter was sent to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo and Education Secretary Armin Luistro, and to PAPM President Jerry Sy and to several paint manufacturers and distributors.

“As we dedicate the month of October to the promotion of the rights of children and consumers, we deem it very fitting to remind our government and business leaders about the serious health risks posed by the continued production and sale of lead-containing paints,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“A chemical control order (CCO) eliminating the addition of lead in paint and establishing a brief transition period is crucial to protecting the public good, especially the health of children,” he emphasized.

“We have allowed for the longest time the proliferation of lead-added paint products in the market despite solid scientific evidence about how damaging lead is to human health. Now is the time to rectify this toxic mistake by swiftly doing away with lead in paint and replacing this with safer ingredients,” he said.

Citing information from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the groups pointed out that “lead is a heavy metal that is toxic at very low exposure levels and has acute and chronic effects on human health. It is a multi-organ system toxicant that can cause neurological, cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, haematological and reproductive effects.”

Also, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even low levels of exposure can cause serious and, in some cases, irreversible neurological damage.”

Lead, which attacks the brain and the nervous system, is estimated to contribute to about 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year, according to WHO.

Aside from minimizing children as well as workers’ exposure to lead, eliminating lead in paint will be good for business in view of the increasing consumer awareness and preference for safe products and the noticeable emergence of a “green” building market, according to the groups.

By jumping on the “green” bandwagon, lead-free paint manufacturers and suppliers will have the advantage of expanding into the “green” building sector, while generating economic, health and environmental benefits for the Filipino people, they said.

“We are certain that individual and institutional consumers of architectural, decorative or household paints will appreciate and recognize the shift from lead to non-lead materials, and use their purchasing power to show approval for safe paint products,” the groups stated.

In their letter, the groups drew attention to the two studies conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition in collaboration with its international partners that provide important data on lead in paint products sold in the Philippines.

In 2008, the EcoWaste Coalition sent 15 enamel and 10 plastic paint samples to India for analysis in a government-accredited laboratory. In general, plastic paint samples were found to have low concentration of lead – well below 90 parts per million (ppm), the new maximum allowable concentration of lead in paint in the USA.

However, enamel paint samples showed high concentrations with 66.7% of the samples containing lead greater than 90 ppm. One sample had lead amounting to 189,164 ppm (the average lead concentration was 28,354 ppm).

Another study in 2010 showed that 68.6% of the 35 enamel paint samples sent by the EcoWaste Coalition for analysis at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, USA had high lead concentrations above 90 ppm. The highest lead concentration for this batch of paint products was 161,651 ppm (the average lead concentration was 27,504 ppm).

The two test results, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out, also showed the viability of manufacturing architectural, decorative or household paints with non-lead raw materials. In fact, some samples in the 2008 study had lead concentrations as low as 3.4 ppm, and 4.5 ppm in the 2010 study.

Among the groups that signed the letter were the EcoWaste Coalition, IPEN, Ang NARS, Arugaan, Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Citizens’ Organization Concerned with Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability, Clean Up the Philippines Movement, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Consumer Rights to Safe Food, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Green Stage Filipinas-Maskara, Institute for the Development of Educational and Ecological Alternatives, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, Krusada sa Kalikasan, Mother Earth Foundation, Sanib Lakas ng mga Aktibong Lingkod para sa Inang Kalikasan, Save Sierra Madre Environmental Society, Inc., Sining Yapak and Soljuspax.

-end-

References:

UNEP’s “Final Review of Scientific Information on Lead,” version of December 2010: http://www.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/Portals/9/Lead_Cadmium/docs/Interim_reviews/UNEP_GC26_INF_11_Add_1_Final_UNEP_Lead_review_and_apppendix_Dec_2010.pdf

WHO on lead:
http://www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/lead_paint.pdf

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