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Philippines paints with high lead content

Two out of five house paint samples tested in the Philippines where found with high concentrations of lead, a recent study noted, with scientist warning that exposures to the toxic substance could cause irreparable health damage especially among children.

   The high lead content of local paints was discovered in the global study “The Lead in New Decorative Household Paints,” which was conducted by the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN).

   The study found lead in 80 percent of the paint samples that were purchased by participating groups from 10 countries, and subsequently tested in a government-accredited laboratory in India.

   Out of the 25 paint samples from the Philippines, 15 of which were enamel and 10 were plastic paints, 40 percent registered lead  concentrations higher than the recommended limit of 90 ppm (parts per million), and 36 percent had lead content higher than 600 ppm.

One Philippine sample showed extremely elevated levels of leads at 189,163.5 ppm, far beyond the recommended limit of 90 ppm.

Enamel samples of Boysen, Hudson, Mana, Popular and Sphero brands that were tested had low lead concentrations.

   Meanwhile, namel samples of Coat Saver, Davies Gloss, Dutch Boy, Globe, Master, Nation, Olympic and Welcoat were found to have high lead concentrations.

   University of Cincinnati Prof. Scott Clark, who has done extensive research on lead paints, said the test results provided fresh evidence on the widespread production and sale of paints with added lead.

   ”The new data on lead household paints should elicit global and national campaigns and partnerships for the removal of lead in paints. As paint use increases as economies expand, it would be horrible and utterly unnecessary to see a legacy created of the poisoning of millions of children and others.Alternative to lead use in paints have been available and widely used for more than 60 years,” Clark pointed out.

   The 10 countries where the 317 paint samples were collected are Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Thailand, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, Belarus, Mexico, and Brazil.

   The report noted that the average new paint lead concentration in the countries studied range from 4,091 ppm to 38,970 ppm, “many times higher than recommended limit of 90 ppm”.

   For seven of the countries the average was greater than 10,000 ppm. With a few exceptions, all water based plastic samples had low lead concentrations; often below 90 ppm.

   Philippine-based environmental group Ecological Waste (EcoWaste) Coalition said the study confirms the harmful exposure of people, particularly in children, to the exotic lead in paints.

This includes painted toys that children will be receiving on Christmas.

   ”Lead is a poison that it should not be present in paint or other products to which children are exposed. Unlike adults who have the capability to protect themselves from harmful substances, children can not ordinarily tell safe objects from hazardous ones” said Paen Lopez of the EcoWaste Coalition.

   Studies showed that lead causes irreversible nervous system damage and decreased intelligence at extremely low doses, while lead exposure in childhood has been associated with lower vocabulary and grammatical-reasoning scores, increased absenteeism, poorer eye-to-hand coordination, and lower class standing in high school.

   Pediatrician and environmental health expert Dr. Irma Makalinao said lead can adversely impede a childs brain and body development and health, stressing that “child lead poisoning should be taken seriously, and parents should be aware of possible pathways of exposure including lead paint in one’s home.”

   According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Healthy Environments for Children Alliance, “there is no known safe blood lead level but it is known that, as lead exposure increases, the range and severity of symptoms and effects also increases.”

   It added that one of the largest causes of lead exposure is lead contaminated dust from decaying paint, while lead ingestion and poisoning typically occurs through hand-to-mouth activity.

   ”You (the Philippines) have succeeded in phasing out the use of lead in automotive fuels and I’m sure you can do it again with paints and do away with this very avoidable toxic threat, especially to children’s health,” Clark said. (Ellalyn B. De Vera)

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