Groups cite benefits of phasing out leaded paints in PH

QUEZON CITY--Environmental, health and labor groups cited the country’s ongoing effort to phase out lead, a toxic chemical, in paint, as a step in the right direction that will benefit millions of Filipino children, mothers and workers today and the future generations.

The groups lauded the government’s decision to phase out leaded paints as the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action is commemorated from October 22 to 28 to raise awareness and promote action to address the human health effects of lead exposure, particularly for children. The Week of Action is spearheaded by the United Nations Environment and the World Health Organization (WHO)

“While many developing countries have yet to enact mandatory lead paint standards and regulations, our country took a bold decision to phase out lead in paints with the primary goal of protecting vulnerable populations, particularly the children, women of child-bearing age and the workers,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Working hand in hand, government, industry and civil society leaders took part in several consultative and technical meetings that paved the way to the adoption of a groundbreaking regulation in the form of a Chemical Control Order (CCO),” he added.

The CCO for lead and lead compounds released in 2013 by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) provides the road map to the country’s transition to paints without lead additives.

The CCO stipulates for a three-year phase-out schedule from 2013 to 2016 for lead-containing architectural, decorative and household (ADH) paints, and a six-year phase-out period (2013-2019) for lead-containing industrial paints. It also sets a total lead content limit of 90 parts per million (ppm), the world’s strictest regulatory standard for lead in paint.

The three-year phase-out period for ADH paints provided paint manufacturers, including small- and medium-sized enterprises, to find suitable replacements to lead used to enhance color, make drying faster or reduce corrosion on metal surfaces.

“The phase-out of leaded paints is good news for our children’s brains as childhood lead exposure is known to harm the brain causing reduced intelligence and mental retardation,” said Ines Fernandez, Founder of Arugaan, a mother-led movement promoting breastfeeding and child and maternal health.

“Replacing lead additives in the production of paints with safe alternatives will minimize occupational exposures to lead. Workers in paint manufacturing, construction, painting, renovation, demolition and related sectors will benefit from a toxic-free working environment that is safe from lead and other hazardous substances,” said Allan Tanjusay, Spokesperson, Associated Labor Unions – Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).

Eliminating lead paint now is more cost-effective than remediating lead-contaminated homes, schools and other facilities used by children later, the groups said.

In US, as per estimate by the Environmental Protection Agency the costs for lead paint abatement range from $8 to $15 per square foot, and a typical house will require a minimum of $10,000 to treat.

Above all, removing lead in paint will prevent dust and soil from being contaminated by lead from chipping or deteriorating lead painted surfaces that can be ingested on inhaled by children, the groups added.

Lead, according to WHO, is especially dangerous to children's developing brains, and causes reduced intelligence quotient (IQ) and attention span, impaired learning ability, and increased risk of behavioral problems.

“Lead paint is a serious threat to the long term health of our children. WHO calls on all countries to phase out lead paint by 2020 to protect the health of this and future generations,” said Dr. Maria Neira Director of the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health for the WHO.

To encourage further industry compliance to the phase-out of lead paint, the EcoWaste Coalition on Monday will hold an event to mark the country’s achievement so far in removing lead in AHD paints.

The group will release the findings of its latest study in collaboration with IPEN (a global NGO network for a toxics-free future) showing significant reduction in the number of leaded solvent-based AHD paints sold in the market.