EcoWaste Coalition Detects High Levels of Lead on Paint Brushes (Leaded Paint Brushes Not Food-Safe for Basting BBQ)

A toxics watchdog has detected lead, a developmental and reproductive toxin, in paint brushes at levels violating safety standard in the United States

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the EcoWaste Coalition found lead up to 17,400 parts per million (ppm) on the painted wooden handles of 22 out of 25 brushes, way above the allowable limit of 90 ppm for lead in paint in US.

“None of the samples had precautionary labels to notify consumers about lead and other chemicals of concern on the paint brushes,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Consumers, especially the health and safety conscious ones with strong preference for paints with no lead additives, will be upset to buy and use leaded paint brushes without their knowledge.  It’s unacceptable to keep customers in the dark on matters affecting their well-being,” he said.

According to the group, information on chemicals in a product with matching precautionary warning will guide consumers in making informed choices and in preventing risks of exposure for users and non-users alike.

“Also, since paint brushes are often used as basting brushes, especially by street vendors selling barbecued meats,  sellers and buyers should know that leaded brushes are not food-safe and should not be used for basting food,” Dizon added.

The 25 paint brushes, representing 14 brands with prices ranging from P12 to P102, were obtained from 12 hardware and home improvement stores at the Araneta Commercial Center and adjacent places in Cubao, Quezon City.

Only 3 paint brushes (Hi Tech with black plastic handle, Mansion with wooden handle in natural varnish and Stanley with wooden handle in brown varnish) had low or non-detectable levels of lead (see photo below).

The top 10 samples that registered with the highest levels of lead at their yellow painted handles were Hi Tech (3”), 17,400 ppm; Lotus (2.5”), 16,500 ppm; Camel (2”), 12,800 ppm; Panclub (1 ½), 12,700 ppm; Lotus (1”), 12,600 ppm; Croco (2”), 10,800 ppm; no brand name (3”), 9214 ppm; Camel (3/4”), 8,931 ppm; Butterfly (2”), 6,181 ppm; and Lotus (1”, brown handle), 5,027 ppm.

Traces of arsenic (highest: 2,104 ppm), chromium (highest: 11,200 ppm) and mercury (highest: 81 ppm) were also detected in most of the samples.

The EcoWaste Coalition had already notified the major hardware store chains about their findings.

In separate letters to the stores, the EcoWaste Coalition suggested that they either voluntarily remove the leaded paint brushes off the shelves or post a visible warning that will inform consumers about the lead content of such articles.

The hardware stores were also urged to require their paint brush suppliers to manufacture lead-free, non-toxic brushes.

Additionally, hardware stores should provide a warning sign next to the leaded paint brushes that says “not fit for basting food” - or its equivalent in local language - to prevent contamination during food preparation, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of over 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.