Sunday, March 13, 2011

Environmental watchdogs press DENR to impose ban on lead in paints

Green advocates Thursday appealed to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to implement a policy that jibes with the international consensus to phase out lead-added paints.

In a letter sent to DENR Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Director Juan Miguel Cuna, the EcoWaste Coalition and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) pushed for a policy that is in sync with the international community’s call to stop the use of lead in paints.

The EMB had asked for public comments on the final draft of the “Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Lead and Lead Compounds.”

Lead and lead compounds belong to the “Priority Chemicals List” of the Philippines that must be regulated, phased out or banned because of the serious risks these chemicals posed to public health, workplace and the environment.

“The draft CCO must disallow the use of lead pigments in preparations and articles such as paint mixtures and children’s products and hasten industry shift to clean production via kid-safe alternatives to lead,” said Manny Calonzo of GAIA and EcoWaste.

He stressed that children are most vulnerable to lead exposure and poisoning due to their hand-to-mouth and object-to-mouth activities and their smaller and still developing bodies.

The draft CCO lists the use of lead in “paints, coatings and red lead primer” among the “allowable uses.”

While there is a reference for “allowable limit,” the draft contains no specification on what limit is to be allowed.

“The draft CCO is not in step with the global consensus to prevent children’s exposure to lead via lead-added paints as well as minimize occupational exposure to leaded paints,” the group said.

“If not improved, the CCO will run counter to chemical policy trends that are increasingly protective of children’s health. It would be very embarrassing for the Philippines to go against the global drive to protect children from being poisoned and harmed by lead-added paints and products,” it added.

The groups cited paragraph 57 of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) Plan of Implementation, which calls for the “phase out lead in lead-based paints and in other sources of human exposure, work to prevent, in particular, children's exposure to lead and strengthen monitoring and surveillance efforts and the treatment of lead poisoning.”

They also cited a decision in 2009 by the Second International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM2) that established the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paints (GAELP) under the joint coordination of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Laboratory tests abroad commissioned by EcoWaste for 35 local paint samples in 2008 and for 25 samples in 2010 showed average lead concentration of over 300 times the US 90 ppm standard. The highest lead level found in the 2008 test conducted in India was 189,163.5 ppm, and 161,700 ppm for the 2010 test conducted in the United States.


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