EcoWaste Coalition Urges Hardware Stores to Stop Selling Toxic Paint Brushes

The EcoWaste Coalition has appealed to hardware stores and home improvement centers to stop the sale of paint brushes whose handles are decorated with lead-containing paint.

As paint brushes are inappropriately used to rub butter, glaze, oil or sauce on food items, the toxics watch group further urged retail outlets to put up the following warning sign on paint brush rack or shelf: “Safety First: Not Suitable for Food Preparation.”

“The use of paint brushes, which are non-food grade utensils, may pose a lead contamination risk, especially when the lead painted handle has started to crumble due to repeated use. The chalking, chipping or peeling lead paint on the handle of these brushes may get onto the butter, glaze, oil or sauce that is applied on food and into someone’s mouth,” explained Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“This raises the possibility for lead poisoning to occur due to the ingestion of lead contaminated food. While further study is required, food preparers are advised to err on the side of caution and only use food-grade basting brushes or mops. Prevention is better than cure, especially when you are dealing with toxic metals like lead, which has no safe threshold for exposure,” said Dr. Erle Castillo, toxicologist at Medical Center Manila and member of the Philippine Society for Clinical and Occupational Toxicology.

If food grade basting or pastry brushes are not affordable or available, ingenious food preparers can opt for DIY (do-it-yourself) mops made out of banana, lemon grass or pandan leaves, the EcoWaste Coalition  suggested.

Last Sunday, the group launched its report entitled “Get the Lead Out of Paint Brushes,” which documents the presence of dangerously high levels of lead in non-food grade brushes used for food preparations.

From 25-27 August 2018, the group purchased a total of 75 branded and generic paint brushes from 40 hardware stores, home improvement centers and other retailers in Caloocan, Makati, Manila, Pasay, Pasig, Quezon, San Juan, and Taguig Cities

The samples representing 58 brands and costing P10 to P164.75 each were screened for toxic metals, particularly lead, using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device.

The XRF screening showed 52 of the 75 paint brushes (69%) with mostly yellow painted handles had high lead content exceeding the regulatory limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) as per Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order (A.O.) 2013-24, or the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.

Of the 52 lead-coated paint brushes, 41 had lead above 1,000 ppm, 23 had lead above 5,000 ppm and eight had lead above 10,000 ppm.

None of the 52 lead-decorated paint brushes provided lead warning on the product label.  There was no precautionary statement on the label that such brushes should not be used for food preparations.
According to the EcoWaste Coalition, the presence of lead on the painted handles of the analyzed paint brushes pointed to an obvious breach of the country’s landmark regulation banning lead in paints.

With the phase-out of lead-containing decorative paints, it would only be logical that painting implements such as brushes are also devoid of lead, the group emphasized. 

The group further revealed that the highly leaded paint brush samples also contained arsenic, chrome and mercury above levels of concern.

As the eradication of lead exposure at its source is the single most effective action against childhood as well as adult lead poisoning, the EcoWaste Coalition has suggested the following action steps:

For Paint Brush Manufacturers:
Withdraw from the market paint brushes decorated with lead paint.
Ensure that only lead-safe paints are used for decorating paint brushes.
Provide adequate product labeling information, including a precautionary warning that paint brushes may not be suitable for food-related applications.

For Hardware Stores, Home Improvement Centers and Other Retailers:
Desist from selling lead-containing paint brushes.
Demand lead-safe paint brushes from suppliers.
Put up a warning sign on paint brush rack or shelf: “Safety First: Not Suitable for Food Preparation.”

For Consumers:
Ask for lead-safe paints, as well as lead-safe paint brushes, from your favorite store.
Use hygienic food grade basting mops and refrain from using paint brushes.

For the Government:
Educate the public about the risks of misusing paint brushes for food purposes.
Prohibit the use of paint brushes for food preparation as a precaution against lead contamination.
Enforce the ban on lead-containing decorative paints in the production of paint brushes and other home improvement products.


The report “Get the Lead Out of Paint Brushes” can be downloaded here: