New European Union-Funded Study Gives New Momentum to the Ongoing Drive to Eliminate Lead Paint


San Juan City/Quezon City. With one year and six months to go until the phase-out of decorative paints containing lead—a harmful chemical known for damaging children’s brain development—a new study revealed that many solvent-based paints used for homes, playgrounds and schools still contained lead above the regulatory limit.

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.

The study was conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition under the Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project. The Project is implemented in 7 Asian countries with financial assistance from the European Union totalling PHP70 million. The results of the study were released in time for the World Environment Day at an event co-organized by the Philippine Institute of Architects, the Philippine Medical Association and the San Juan City Government through the Department of Education—Division of San Juan City.

Overall, the study finds that 97 out of the 140 enamel decorative paints (69 percent) -- mostly produced by smaller companies—contain lead levels above 90 parts per million (ppm), the regulatory standard under the “Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds” (CCO).

The report also reveals that 63 enamel decorative paints (45 percent) contain dangerously high lead concentrations above 10,000 ppm, with four brands containing lead between 102,000 to 153,000 ppm.

The results prompted the EcoWaste Coalition and the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers to jointly agree in pushing all paint companies to work double-time in order to comply with the fast-approaching deadline for the removal of lead in decorative paints by December 2016.

The CCO, issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in December 2013, sets a 90 ppm total lead content limit in paints and assigns a phase-out period until 2016 for leaded decorative paints and until 2019 for leaded industrial paints.

“It’s worth noting that 43 of the 140 paints (31 percent) passed the CCO limit of 90 ppm, out of which 22 paints had lead below 10 ppm, indicating the economic and technical viability of removing lead in paints,” said Jeiel Guarino, in-house chemist and Campaigner for Lead Paint Elimination, EcoWaste Coalition.

“With the clock ticking for the 2016 phase-out deadline for decorative paints, we urge paint companies to speed up their switch to non-lead pigments and driers, as well as to tighten quality control measures to prevent lead contamination at any stage of the manufacturing process,” he said.

Guy Ledoux, European Union Ambassador to the Philippines, said “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.”

At the report launch, the EcoWaste Coalition also underscored the need to fix current paint products’ labeling information, noting the absence of lead content disclosure in lead-containing paints, as well as the dearth of precautionary warning to caution the public against the hazard posed by lead dust to children and pregnant women.

“While 12 of the 15 paints with ‘lead-free,’ ‘non-lead added’ or ‘zero lead’ claims passed the regulatory limit, we found three paints with such claims containing dangerous levels of lead up to 46,000 ppm. This underscores the need for verifiable, independent, third party certification that will support the veracity of such claims,” Guarino said.

Sonia Mendoza, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, also pointed to the need to conduct lead paint hazard identification in schools.

“As some of our schools may be coated with lead paint, we call upon the education, environment and health departments to embark on an investigative study, together with public interest groups, to determine lead paint hazards in the public educational system.  This will help in identifying potential problem areas and in undertaking remedial steps to protect susceptible children from being exposed to lead paint and dust,” Mendoza suggested.

The UN-established Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP), which includes the EcoWaste Coalition as member, has warned that "children can be severely affected by eating lead-based paint chips, chewing on objects, including toys painted with lead-based paint, or from exposure to dust or soil that contains lead from paint."


Additional Information:

1. The EcoWaste Coalition purchased the 140 cans of solvent-based decorative paints from retailers in 11 cities in Metro Manila, Cebu and Pampanga from October to December 2014. The paints were selected because (1) they were shown to contain lead above 90 ppm in the 2013 study, or (2) because they had not previously been analyzed for their total lead content. The paint study was undertaken as part of the Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project being implemented by IPEN, a global civil society network for a toxics-free future, with environmental NGOs in seven project countries: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand.