CEJ calls for action to control lead in paints

The Centre for Environmental Justice yesterday urged the Consumer Affairs Authority, Ministry of Health and Nutrition, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the Sri Lanka Standards Institution to take action to provide mandatory standards and to enact regulations on the quantity of lead to be used in the manufacturing of paints.

CEJ Executive Director Hemantha Withanage told The Island that the present voluntary standards were not sufficient to limit the use of lead in the manufacture of paints. "We are very concerned about the silence of Government agencies other than the Sri Lanka Standards Institution".

He said one paint manufacturer had claimed that they were the only Sri Lankan brand whose paints were safe from lead and was environ mental friendly according to the international standards.

Meanwhile, one or more manufacturers claim that they too have lead free paint.

Withanage said that they believe that no manufacturer or retailer of paints in Sri Lanka can claim that their paints are free of lead without presenting systematic, independent test results that can verify such a claim.

"We wish to bring to the notice of general public that `Our tests were not exhaustive, we did not test paint from every manufacturer, and we only did random sampling from a few manufacturers. We therefore advice manufacturers to refrain from taking undue competitive advantage from the study," he added.

Recently, along with 10 countries, the CEJ conducted a study on lead in decorative paints and toxic links.

He said their research was carried out only on the randomly selected products of four brands out of dozens of brands available in Sri Lanka.

He said that it was found that all samples contained lead at different levels – Some as low as four parts per million (ppm) to as high as 325 ppm. Except for one brand, other enamel paint samples exceeded the permitted level which is 600 ppm as per the SLS standards.

However, he said that no limit has been mentioned in the SLS standards for emulsion paints. The limit in the United States is only 90 ppm. Except one sample, all other emulsion paint samples contained less than 90 ppm of total lead concentration.

Lead has been recognized as a prime toxic by World Health organization impacting over 40 million children worldwide. Lead in paints had been responsible throughout the world for being a silent poison – particularly when used on walls and items that children would lick or chew.

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