EcoWaste Coalition Warns vs Use of Lead-Coated Paint Brushes in Food Preparations (Warning aired on use of paint brushes for BBQ)

EcoWaste Coalition warns against the inappropriate use of lead-coated  paint brushes such as for applying basting sauce on barbecued meat.  To prevent potential lead contamination, the group suggested improvised basting mops made out of  banana, lemon grass or pandan leaves

The use of paint brushes as baster or brush to rub the sauce may be contaminating your favorite barbecue meat with lead, a hazardous chemical.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a public interest group working for a zero waste and toxics-free society, made this warning at the launch today of its report “Get the Lead Out of Paint Brushes” revealing the presence of dangerously high levels of lead in non-food grade brushes used for food preparations.

“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 sauce, butter, glaze or oil 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.

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 eight cities in Metro Manila (Caloocan, Makati, Manila, Pasay, Pasig, Quezon, San Juan, and Taguig ).  

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 said.   

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