Davao: Paint Brushes Used as Basting Brushes for BBQ Not Safe Due to Lead Content

 Paint brushes with lead levels above 90 ppm (above) and those with low or non-detectable lead (below).

Environmental organizations today cautioned food preparers and vendors against using paint brushes for basting or greasing barbecued or grilled meat.

The Kinaiyahan Foundation based in Davao City and the EcoWaste Coalition based in Quezon City jointly aired the warning after detecting lead, a toxic chemical, in paint brushes that are commonly used as basting brushes.

“The lead-containing paint of the brush handle may chip off due to repeated use,  get onto the basting sauce, then to the barbecued or grilled meat and finally into the body when it is eaten.  Lead enters our body each time we ingest or inhale something that contains lead, which builds up in the body over time and causes permanent health damage, especially among young children,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“In the interest of food safety and consumer health, we appeal to Davaoeños to heed our warning and only use non-toxic food-grade utensils to reduce any possibility of lead exposure via contaminated food.  As doctors would say, prevention is better than cure,” said Betty Cabazares, Executive Director of Kinaiyahan Foundation.

As part of the groups’ advocacy to protect the public health and the environment, 40 samples of paint brushes were obtained from hardware stores located at Center Point Plaza, Gaisano Mall, NCCC Mall, Robinsons Abreeza Mall, SM City Davao, Victoria Plaza Mall and Unitop General Merchandise Inc.

The samples, costing P8 to P95 each, were then subjected to chemical analysis using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.

Out of 40 samples, 33 were found to contain lead on the painted handles of the brushes in the range of 271 parts per million (ppm) to 8,609 ppm, exceeding the US limit of 90 ppm for lead in paints and surface coatings.

The 33 samples of Boerdun, Camel, Croco, Eterna, Globe, Lotus, Hippo and Stanley paint brushes were found to contain excessive amounts of lead, with the following having the highest levels:

1. Camel Paint Brush, (2"), 8,609 ppm
2. Croco Utility Paint Brush, (1"), 8,342 ppm
3. Croco Utility Paint Brush, (2"), 7,713 ppm
4. Camel Paint Brush, (1/2"), 6,151 ppm
5. Hippo Utility Paint Brush, (2"), 5,773 ppm
6. Camel Paint Brush, (1"), 5,703 ppm
7. Boerdun Paint Brush (2 1/2) 4,183 ppm
8. Lotus Paint Brush (2”), 3,882

The seven Greenfield, KYK and Stanley paint brushes were found to contain low or non-detectable levels of lead.

In light of their findings, the Kinaiyahan Foundation and the EcoWaste Coalition both urged the Davao City Government to take urgent measures to educate the public about the risks of misusing paint brushes for food purposes and to forbid such prevalent practice to safeguard consumers’ health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has described lead as “a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”

“After  it  enters  the  body,  lead  is distributed  to  organs  such  as  the kidneys, liver, and bones.  The body stores  lead  in  the  teeth  and  bones where  it  accumulates  over  time,” the WHO said.

“Children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage,” the WHO emphasized.