Campaign to remove lead in paint gains momentum

THE country’s goal of creating a healthy and safe environment for children got a fresh boost with the launch of a project that seeks to prevent and reduce children’s exposure to lead-based paints and articles.

At the initiation ceremony held yesterday, the EcoWaste Coalition unveiled its three-year project with the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) and the European Union (EU) to phase out paints containing lead and, ultimately, eradicate the health risks that such products cause.

Recognizing that lead, a potent neurotoxin, poses a serious risk to children and can result to brain damage, developed countries had already banned its use in the production of household paints.

The EU, for instance, has taken some concrete measures to phase out the use of lead in paint in its common market.

Speaking at the project launch, Matthieu Penot, Environment Attache of the EU Delegation to the Philippines, said that member countries of the EU collectively banned the use of lead in paint in 1989, which was later complemented with related directives banning the use of lead compounds in consumer products such as cosmetics and toys.

EU Council Directive (89/677/EEC) states that lead compounds “may not be used as substances and constituents of preparations intended  for use as paints, except for the restoration and maintenance of works of art and historic buildings and their interiors.”

“The harms caused by childhood lead exposure are very severe and better documented than the harms from virtually all other environmental contaminants.  In fact, the science on lead’s harm to children is absolutely non-controversial at this point, and health scientists have recognized no safe level of lead exposure, especially for children,” said Manny Calonzo, Co-Chair, IPEN.

Some of the lead-induced neurological harms, which are often irreversible, include developmental delays, mental retardation, intelligence quotient shortfalls, poor school performance, attention deficit disorder, aggression, violence and other behavioral problems, Calonzo said.

At the launch, businessman Johnson Ongking announced to the delight of the multi-sectoral audience that the paint industry is supportive of the EcoWaste Coalition’s  call to do away with leaded paint, saying that
“larger paint companies, with combined 80% market share, have voluntarily eliminated use of lead based raw materials” in paint production.

Ongking, who is the President of the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers, also told the gathering that “red lead primers have almost disappeared from the market,” and that “many smaller paint companies have also stopped using lead driers.”

Ongking further cited three concerns affecting paint companies conversion from lead to non-lead: 1) “higher formulation costs for lead chromate replacement,” 2)  “lack of government regulation”, and 3) “lead driers and pigments can still be freely purchased.”

“We acknowledge the progress made by major industry players in eliminating lead pigments and driers in paint manufacturing.  We trust that other paint companies will follow suit, innovate now and come up with products with no lead added for the sake of our children’s health,” said Edwin Alejo, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to take cue from the broad multi-stakeholders’ support  for “no lead added” paint as manifested during the project launch and fast track the approval of the draft Chemical Control Order (CCO) for lead and lead compounds.

The DENR through the Environmental Management Bureau has drafted the CCO that provides for a mandatory total lead limit of 90 parts per million, a standard at par with that of the United States, and directs a phase-out period of two years for leaded paint upon its approval by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.


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