THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and environmental watchdog EcoWaste Coalition have renewed the call to ban the use of lead paint as the world observed this year's Lead Poisoning Prevention Week from October 24 to 30, 2021.

"We urge our manufacturers, sellers, distributors, and processors of lead and lead compounds to strictly comply with the provisions of Republic Act 6969 and to coordinate with the DENR through the Environmental Management Bureau in their registration and permitting," said Eastern Visayas environment director Tirso Parian Jr.

"This is our way to manage the risk of lead to the environment and more especially to human health," he added.

Republic Act (RA) 6969, or an Act to Control Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes, seeks to regulate or prohibit the importation, manufacture, processing, sale, distribution, use, and disposal of chemical substances that present unreasonable risk or injury to human health and to the environment.

Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner of EcoWaste Coalition, said the results of their investigation "points to the importance of monitoring compliance to the national ban on lead paints."

"As some of the extremely leaded industrial paints found were produced during the phaseout period, we urge concerned manufacturers to initiate a systematic retrieval of such paints to stop their sale and use," Dizon said.

"Despite the detection of non-compliant products, our joint study with the EcoWaste Coalition reaffirmed the capability of the local paint industry to produce paints, including industrial solvent-based products, which do not pose lead-based paint hazards," added Manny Calonzo, adviser of International Pollutants Elimination Network (Ipen) for its global lead paint elimination campaign.

"Eliminating the use of lead compounds in the manufacture of all paint categories is indeed doable," Calonzo said.

A new analytical study by the EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN on the lead content of industrial paints being traded in the Philippines "provides a compelling basis to strengthen compliance monitoring to the country's lead paint ban."

The report "Lead in Solvent-Based Industrial Paints Sold in the Philippines" released on Sunday, October 24, 2021, "shows that industrial paints with high concentration of lead are still available in the market despite the completion of the six-year phaseout period for such paints that ended on December 31, 2019."

For this study, the EcoWaste Coalition said a total of 68 samples of solvent-based industrial paints representing 49 paint brands from 30 manufacturers were purchased from retail stores in 15 cities in Metro Manila, as well as from online dealers and paint manufacturers.

The paint samples, including automotive acrylic, enamel and lacquer paints, epoxy enamel paints and primers, anti-corrosive primers, traffic paints, floor paints, marine or anti-fouling paints, and a zinc-rich primer, were subsequently analyzed for total lead content by US-based SGS Forensic Laboratories, according to the coalition.

"Of the 68 samples of solvent-based industrial paints, 21 bright-colored paints (31 percent of paints) were found to be leaded paints, or paints containing lead concentrations above the maximum regulatory limit of 90 parts per million as per the DENR AO 2013-24, or the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compound," it said.

"Moreover, 13 of these leaded paints contained extremely high lead concentrations above 10,000 ppm (nine of which had lead concentrations at or above 100,000 ppm). The highest lead concentration detected was 220,000 ppm in a yellow epoxy paint," it added.

Meanwhile, 47 out of 68 solvent-based industrial paints (69 percent of paints) contained lead concentrations at or below 90 ppm, suggesting that the technology to produce paint without leaded ingredients exists in the country.

As this developed, EcoWaste Coalition and Ipen proposed "for the national government to review and strengthen monitoring and enforcement measures that will ensure strict compliance to the ban on lead in all paints, including conducting random product tests, issuing product recalls and public health warnings, seizing non-compliant products, and penalizing errant manufacturers and traders."

"For paint companies that still produce lead paints to expeditiously stop the use of leaded paint ingredients in paint formulations, and for paint companies that have shifted to non-lead paint production to get their products certified through independent, third-party verification procedures to increase the customer´s ability to choose paints with no added lead," it said.

"For paint consumers to demand paints with no added lead from paint manufacturers and retailers, as well as full disclosure of a paint product's content. Individual, household, institutional, commercial, and industrial consumers should ask for, consciously buy, and use lead-safe paints for all uses," the coalition added.

The DENR, among other government agencies, spearheads the implementation of RA 6969 through the updating and inventory of chemical substances and mixtures that fall within the said category to ensure compliance by those covered by the law.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines lead as a toxic metal whose widespread use has caused extensive environmental contamination and health problems in many parts of the world.

It is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems, according to World Health Organization.

Exposure to lead results from inhalation of lead particles generated by burning materials containing lead, such as during smelting, recycling, stripping leaded paint and using leaded aviation fuel, and ingestion of lead-contaminated dust, water from lead pipes, and food from lead-glazed or lead-soldered containers. (SunStar Philippines)