Filipino Campaigner for Lead Safe Paint Receives Goldman Environmental Prize (PH Success in Phasing Out Lead-Containing Paints Gets the Spotlight)

San Francisco, USA/Manila, Philippines. 23/24 April 2018 — The US-based Goldman Environmental Foundation today announced seven recipients of the 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest award for grassroots environmental activists.

Among those honored at a huge ceremony held in the San Francisco Opera House was Manny Calonzo, former president of the EcoWaste Coalition and adviser of the Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaign of IPEN (an international NGO network for a toxics-free future). 

Calonzo was selected by an international jury from confidential nominations for spearheading a fruitful advocacy campaign banning the production, sale and use of paints containing lead, a cumulative poison targeting the brain and the central nervous system.

Calonzo and the EcoWaste-IPEN team conducted studies that generated data on lead content of solvent-based decorative paints sold in the Philippines; organized awareness-raising activities on lead poisoning prevention; built links and alliances with the paint industry and other stakeholders; pushed for mandatory lead paint standard and regulation; and promoted the world's first  third-party Lead Safe Paint Certification program. 

The other Goldman Environmental Prize winners this year are Francia Marquez from Colombia, Claire Nouvian from France, Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid from South Africa, Leeanne Walters from USA, and Khanh Nguy Thi from Vietnam.  The prize was established in 1989 by San Francisco civic leaders and philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman.

Calonzo dedicated the award to Filipino children and youth, including those yet to be born, who deserve to grow and develop in a pollution-free environment that will not expose them to lead in paint and dust, which can result in life-long decrease in intelligence and other adverse health impacts.

“To protect and foster the brains and bodies of our children and youth, and improve the safety of their living, learning and playing environments, the Philippines took the crucial decision to ban lead-containing paints, a major source of childhood lead exposure,” Calonzo told the cheering crowd of 3,000 people.

“By phasing out lead-containing decorative paints in 2016 and lead-containing paints for industrial uses by 2019, we hope to achieve a lead safe paint market by 2020 and ensure a lead safe environment for all, especially for children and babies still growing in the womb,” he emphasized.

Reflecting the collaborative nature of the campaign, Calonzo acknowledged the constructive alliances and relationships forged among partners from the government, industry, civil society, health sector and the academia.  “With key stakeholders on board and working together, and with support from top environment and health officials, we carried out a spirited campaign to eliminate lead paint, an entirely preventable source of lead exposure,” he said.

“This recognition of our collective success in the Philippines, I hope, will inspire global efforts to ban lead paints, particularly in developing countries, at a much faster tempo.  While a few countries have in recent years adopted binding lead paint laws and regulations, much work remains to adequately address this serious human health hazard,” he said.   

“No nation in which lead paints are still produced and consumed can claim to have made real progress in ensuring children’s health and safety,” he pointed out.

Calonzo commended the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers, EcoWaste Coalition, IPEN and the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint for their contributions to the successful campaign.

He specifically recognized Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines. Inc. and Davies Paints Philippines for being the first two companies in the world to earn the Lead Safe Paint® mark under a new third-party certification program. Another Philippine paint company, Sycwin Coatings and Wires Inc., is undergoing lead content verification under this program.  

It will be recalled that the groundbreaking Chemical Control Order on Lead and Lead Compounds (CCO) issued by the DENR in 2013  paved the way for the eventual phase-out in December 2016 of lead-containing architectural, household and decorative paints following a three-year phase-out period.  The same regulation provides for the phase out in 2019 of lead-containing paints for industrial applications after a six-year transition period

Under the Duterte administration, supplemental directives were issued in 2017 and 2018 by the Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Interior and Local Government to mainstream the mandatory procurement and use of lead safe paints, the EcoWaste Coalition noted.

“The continuing collaboration by the government, industry and civil society, backed by informed and vigilant paint consumers,  is crucial in ensuring full compliance to the CCO goals and targets.  As children's lives do matter, we need to keep the environment safe from lead, mercury and other pollutants that can impede childhood growth and development and negatively affect their future,” Calonzo said.   


More information about lead and lead in paint:

An environmental poison: The hazards of lead paint have been well-documented and regulated in developed nations for more than 40 years. But lead paint remains a major environmental health issue in developing countries—including the Philippines. Studies conducted in the early 2000s revealed startlingly high levels of lead in decorative paint in more than 30 developing countries—showing lead levels routinely above 600 parts per million (ppm), and often higher than 10,000 ppm. The US allows lead levels of no more than 90 ppm.

Traditionally, lead is added to paint to give it color, help it dry faster, make it more opaque, and protect it from corrosion. High quality, cost-effective alternatives to lead ingredients exist and are used in developed countries. Unlike many environmental health issues, the science on lead poisoning is indisputable. Studies have shown that the presence of lead paint on home interiors and exteriors is strongly linked to lead levels in children’s blood. Over time, paint on surfaces will chip and deteriorate, which releases lead into the dust and soil around homes, schools, and other locations. Children playing in these environments get the soil or dust on their hands and ingest it through normal hand-to-mouth contact.

Lead is a potent neurotoxin; even low levels of lead exposure can impair children’s cognitive function. Childhood lead poisoning can have lifelong health impacts, including learning disabilities, reduced IQ, anemia, and disorders in physical, visual, spatial, and language skills.