Health advocate groups reveal dangerous lead levels in spray paints

July 11, 2020
Spray paint

ENVIRONMENTAL health groups EcoWaste Coalition and International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) yesterday said urged the government to ban the sale of spray paints they found containing  dangerous lead concentrations.

The report “Lead in Spray Paints for Consumer Use in the Philippines” provides the first publicly available data on the lead content of paints in aerosol cans sold in the country, which are typically used as a touch-up paint for appliances and cars, as a material for school projects, and as a convenient stuff for sprucing up accessories and decors.  

While the hazards of spray paint fumes due to their volatile organic compound (VOC) ingredients like acetone, toluene and xylene, which can be directly inhaled, are quite known, studies had barely paid attention to lead lurking in such paints, the groups noted.

The report showed that out of 87 analyzed spray paints for consumer or general use, 37 samples exceeded the total lead content limit above 90 parts per million (ppm) of which 29 had dangerous lead concentrations topping 10,000 ppm. 

The samples were obtained from various retail outlets, including hardware stores, home improvement centers, general merchandise marts, school and office supplies shops, in 20 cities and one municipality in Metro Manila and various parts of Luzon.  SGS Philippines conducted the laboratory tests.

As confirmed by the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) with the EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN, none of the spray paints analyzed in the study was produced locally by its affiliated companies. 

“The unlawful sale of spray paints containing lead points to the need for strict monitoring of business compliance to the Chemical Control Order prohibiting lead content above 90 ppm in all types of paint products.  Paints in aerosol cans are definitely not exempted,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner of EcoWaste Coalition.

Lead paint is a major source of childhood lead exposure affecting large numbers of children in the world.

Exposure to lead, the groups pointed out, can seriously damage the brain. When a young child is exposed to lead, the harm to her or his developing brain and nervous system makes it more like that the child will have difficulties in school and engage in impulsive and violent behavior.

Lead exposure in young children is also linked to increased rates of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, failure to graduate from high school, conduct disorder, juvenile delinquency, drug use and incarceration. 

Lead exposure impacts on children continue throughout life and have a long-term impact on a child’s work performance, and are related to decreased economic success.

The groups also found that 19 out of 37 analyzed brands sold at least one lead paint, i.e., a paint with lead concentration above 90 ppm.  Also, 16 of the 37 analyzed brands sold at least one paint with dangerously high lead concentrations above 10,000 ppm.

They also said that 35 of the 73 bright-colored paints were lead paints, i.e., they contained lead concentrations above 90 ppm. 

Yellow paints were the most hazardous with 14 paints containing lead concentrations greater than 10,000 ppm, while 11 green paints also contained dangerously high lead concentrations above 10,000 ppm.