OUR country observes this year’s International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week from October 25 to 31 with the historic phase-out of paints containing lead, a potent brain poison, as backdrop.
Lead-containing architectural, decorative and household paints were phased out on January 1, 2017, while leaded industrial paints were phased out on January 1, 2020 in compliance to the DENR-issued Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.
With encouragement and support from the government and the civil society, the country’s paint and coating industry succeeded in meeting the phase-out targets that many sectors consider as a huge step toward the goal of preventing children’s exposure to lead from paints, as well as reducing occupational lead exposure.
Lead-based additives in paint production, which are previously used as a pigment, drying catalyst or as a corrosion inhibitor, have been replaced with alternatives that will not cause brain-based disorders, especially among developing children and fetuses.
“The paint and coating industry has acquired competitive advantage by reformulating whole product lines to get rid of lead inputs in paint formulations. Some companies have even gone one step further by
successfully obtaining third-party Lead Safe Paint® certification to assure consumers that their products do not pose lead-based paint hazards,” noted Derrick Tan, president, Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM).
Lead Safe Paint® is an independent, third-party certification program that verifies products under a particular brand conform to the 90 ppm total lead content limit as stipulated in the said CCO.
Among those who passed the rigorous Lead Safe Paint® assessment procedures are Boysen, Nation, Titan and Virtuoso Silk brands by Pacific Paints (Boysen), Philippines Inc. (with a total of 434 products); Davies brand by Davies Paints Philippines, Inc. (371 products); and the PureCoat Premium, WeatherGard, Sycwin, PureCoat Advance, Minnesota, Delaware, Alabama, Kansas, Guilder and Illinois brands by Sycwin Coating & Wires, Inc. (590 products).
While delighted with the phase-out of lead in all paint categories, the EcoWaste Coalition, the local NGO championing the transition to lead-safe paints, admitted “there is still so much to be done to ensure that our children are protected against preventable sources of lead exposure that can irreparably affect their health and future.”
As there is no level of exposure to lead that is without harmful effect, the group urged the government, industry and civil society to sustain meaningful multi-stakeholders collaboration to build a lead-safe environment for all children, including babies in the womb.
Globally, governments need to quickly adopt lead paint standards and regulations limiting total lead content to not more than 90 ppm, which is also the limit recommended under the UN Model Law and Guidance on Regulating Lead paint, noting that the manufacture of lead paint is still allowed in over 60 percent of countries.
Other countries also need to enforce or strengthen their lead paint laws so that non-compliant paints and consumer products, particularly school supplies, toys and childcare articles, are not exported to the Philippines and used by unsuspecting consumers.
A case in point is the group’s discovery of 37 imported aerosol or spray paints, including four products purchased from Baguio retailers, which were found to contain dangerous concentrations of lead. This subsequently led to a ban on their distribution and sale as ordered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Major paint consumers such as local governments, real estate developers, home builders and others should adopt a lead safe paint procurement policy to ensure that only compliant paints are purchased and used. Baguio City and other LGUs should take their cue from Quezon City and Davao City authorities, which have enacted ordinances requiring all publicly-funded painting and renovation activities to use certified lead safe paints.
It’s also high time for the government, in close consultation with other stakeholders, to come up with a national strategy addressing the toxic legacy of lead paint starting with the development of mandatory guidelines on lead paint abatement to minimize lead dust pollution when lead painted surfaces are disturbed or removed.
As pointed out by Dr. Gelo Apostol, a young and passionate environmental health and safety specialist, “phasing out lead paints and addressing all other sources of lead poisoning in the environment are absolutely needed to protect Filipino children from the adverse health and economics impacts of lead exposure such as reduced learning abilities, poor school performance, behavioral problems and decreased productivity.”
Together, we can build a lead-safe environment for all children.
Manny C. Calonzo
(Manny C. Calonzo, former president of the EcoWaste Coalition, is IPEN Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaign Adviser)