EcoWaste Coalition: Stop Importation of Lead-Containing Paints

The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition urged the customs authorities anew to stop the unlawful importation of lead-containing spray paints into the Philippines.

The group again sought the assistance of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) after confirming through laboratory analysis the presence of lead up to 71,900 parts per million (ppm) in 12 imported aerosol paints, which the group purchased from retailers in Antipolo, Mandaluyong and Tarlac Cities and from an online vendor.

“We appeal to our customs and port authorities to initiate measures that will prevent the entry, distribution and sale of lead paints into the local market,” said Manny Calonzo, Adviser, EcoWaste Coalition. “Stricter customs controls are required to stop the recurring importation of banned leaded paints.”

Lead paints, as defined in the award-winning Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds, or CCO, phasing out lead in all paint categories, are paints or similar surface coating materials containing lead in excess of 90 ppm. In 2021, the Philippines received the coveted Future Policy Award (lead paint category) for adopting a regulation with the most protective lead content limit and for phasing out lead-containing paints.

In line with the said CCO issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 2013, lead-containing decorative paints in the Philippines were phased out in December 2016 and lead-containing industrial paints in December 2019.  

In the newest laboratory tests arranged by the EcoWaste Coalition and performed by SGS, a leading global testing company, 12 samples of "made in China" 400 ml. spray paints representing four brands were found to contain lead above the 90 ppm limit.

An art yellow Howar Spray Paint, which the group purchased online, had the highest total lead content at 71,900 ppm.

Also found contaminated with lead were four colors (grass green, refrigerator green, Gongcheng orange red, medium yellow) of Anton Spray Paint with lead content ranging from 31,400 to 57,100 ppm, six colors of Yandy Spray Paint (blackish green, fresh green, Jialing red, Suzuki red, cream yellow, violet) with 210 to 24,600 ppm lead, and one color (fresh green) of Yao Dong Bang Spray Paint with 26,100 ppm lead.

Since the EcoWaste Coalition published its joint report with the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) on "Lead in Spray Paints for Consumer Use in the Philippines” in 2020, the group had so far tracked and tested over 100 imported lead-containing aerosol paints bought from offline and online retailers.

"Lead paint remains to be a major source of childhood lead exposure despite the availability of safer and cost-effective substitutes to lead," emphasized Jeiel Guarino, Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaigner, IPEN. "We therefore join the EcoWaste Coalition in urging the Philippine Government to strictly enforce the CCO to ban the continued importation and sale of leaded spray paints in the country." In addition, he recommended that "manufacturers should subject their paints to independent third-party certifications to ensure that the paints they sell do not contain lead and conform to the mandatory standards or laws."

According to the UN-backed Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, "lead can cause serious impacts on human health, including permanent brain and nervous system damage," warning "children under 6 years of age, and pregnant women (whose developing fetus can be exposed) are especially vulnerable."

For the EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN, the effective elimination of all lead-containing paints is crucial to stop this significant source of childhood lead exposure from harming children’s health and their future, reiterating “there is no safe threshold for lead exposure" as affirmed by health experts.