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Watchdog Group Finds Toxic Lead in Spray Paints Sold in Cebu

Ban lead paint

Quezon City. The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition has discovered five lead-containing spray paints being offered for sale in retail stores in Cebu, Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue Cities. This is an illegal act as the production, importation, distribution and sale of leaded paints is strictly forbidden across the country to protect the health of children, workers and women of reproductive age.

In a rapid market monitoring conducted on September 26, a visiting staff of the EcoWaste Coalition saw Bad Axe Spray Paint on the store shelves of Unitop in Cebu City and Lapu-Lapu City and at Unishop in Mandaue City. Each 400 ml can is sold for less than P100 and is available in a variety of colors. As indicated on the label, Bad Axe can be used for coating the interior and exterior wooden, steel and other metal surfaces of household appliances, equipment, furniture, bicycles and the like.

Bad Axe

“Our discovery of five more lead-containing aerosol paints in Cebu indicates the need for improved compliance monitoring, particularly outside Metro Manila and Luzon, to protect the health of children and adults from this continuing source of lead exposure,” said Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition.

The group, which has so far tracked 99 leaded spray paints since 2020, has never tested Bad Axe before. The product has no manufacturer’s markings and its country of manufacture is unknown. It provides no information or warning about the paint’s lead content.

However, the product’s date of manufacture is indicated at the bottom of the can. All five variants of Bad Axe were manufactured between 2021 to 2023, or after the completion of the national phase-out deadline for lead-containing decorative paints in December 2016.

As aerosol paint products may not be placed in carry-on bags or checked-in luggage, the samples were prepared and dried in Cebu and then screened for lead in Quezon City using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) chemicals analyzer.

Through the said analytical device, the group detected lead on the five Bad Axe paint products above 90 parts per million (ppm), the maximum limit under the DENR-issued Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.

Bad Axe

An orange yellow Bad Axe Spray Paint contained 23,080 ppm lead, while the canary yellow, jade green, Gongcheng orange yellow,and deep yellow variants had 21, 610 ppm 21, 500 ppm, 20,040 ppm, and 15,700 ppm of the banned paint ingredient, respectively.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which co-manages the Secretariat of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (or the Lead Paint Alliance), has warned “lead exposure can have serious consequences for the health of children.”

Exposure to lead is known to result in adverse health effects such as damage to the brain and the central nervous system, slowed growth and development, hearing and speech problems, learning difficulties and behavioral problems, which can cause reduced ability to pay attention, underperformance in school, and lower intelligence quotient (IQ).

“There is no level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects,” warned the WHO as it pointed out that “lead exposure is preventable.”

The country’s lead paint regulation is stipulated under DENR Administrative Order No. 2013-24, which established a maximum limit of 90 ppm for total lead in paint. This landmark chemical policy phased out leaded decorative and industrial paints in December 2016 and December 2019, respectively. It won the Future Policy Award (special category on lead in paint) in 2021.


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