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Lead in paints leave regulators red-faced

A latest study shows that paints marketed by most Indian companies are loaded with toxic lead, which poses a great danger to your health.

Dinesh C. Sharma | January 3, 2011 | Updated 16:39 IST

Every paint firm promises to fill your life with rainbow colours in its television commercial. However, a latest study shows that paints marketed by most Indian companies are loaded with toxic lead, which poses a great danger to your health.

Over 91 per cent of the market share of paints in India has been found to be containing unacceptably high amounts of lead. Only a small number of paints have been found without lead or with permissible levels of lead in the study commissioned by the Bangalore- based National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning in India (NRCLPI).

Fifty samples of different enamel paints manufactured by a dozen companies were picked up from the market and tested at an accredited testing laboratory.

When the samples were sent for analysis, brand names were masked and samples were coded, in order to rule out any bias.

Except paints belonging to one brand, all other samples had very high levels of lead, the analysis revealed. Judged from the criteria of 1,000 parts per million (ppm) of lead as set by the Bureau of Indian Standards ( BIS), the amount of lead in these samples varied from two times to 253 times the permissible limit. When compared with the global standard of 90 ppm, the lead content in Indian brands was several hundred times more.

"Actually paint manufacturers are taking advantage of the regulatory loophole. The BIS standard is very lenient compared to the Western standards and is voluntary.

"We need mandatory standards," pointed out Dr Thuppil Venkatesh of NRCLPI. "When there can be a regulatory cap on lead in petrol, why not in paints," he asked.

Western countries have mandated 90 ppm as the maximum allowable lead content in paints, while the voluntary standard of BIS is 1,000 ppm. Lead- based paints were banned in the West in the 1970s after they realised that even a small amount of lead from paint could kill a child. "Very small amount of lead in blood (greater than 10 micrograms / decilitre) is known to hamper intellectual abilities resulting in irreversible damage in the neurological system apart from lowering the average IQ of the child exposed to lead," Venkatesh said.

Lead is known to cause serious illnesses, including chronic neuropsychologic deficits, seizures, mental retardation and kidney, blood and peripheral nervous system disorders. Lead poisoning affects almost all organ systems in the body.

Consumer organisations have demanded mandatory printing of lead content on all paints and compulsory standards for lead content based on international experience.

Paint firms do have necessary knowhow for manufacturing paints with very low level of lead but they need a regulatory push to implement the same.

Courtesy: Mail Today 

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