The EcoWaste Coalition urges Philippine government to uphold the ban and block lead paint imports

25 August 2023

The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition deplored the unrelenting sale of imported spray paints banned by the authorities in 2020 for containing lead, a hazardous chemical not allowed in the manufacture of paints and similar surface coatings.

On August 26, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released Advisory No. 2020-1585, warning the public against the purchase and use of 37 spray paints “which tested positive for significant levels of lead” in excess of the maximum limit of 90 parts per million (ppm).

To mark the third anniversary of the said advisory, the EcoWaste Coalition visited a few retail outlets in Caloocan, Manila and Quezon Cities to check if retailers are abiding by it, noting that “concerned establishments were sternly warned and directed to stop the distribution and sale of (the 37) products that pose unwarranted risks to health.”

“Despite the stern warning by the authorities and the threat of regulatory sanctions, some of the 37 banned spray paint products can still be obtained from retail stores in clear and open defiance of the FDA advisory, as well as the DENR-issued chemical control order phasing out lead in all paints,” said Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition.  “To protect the public interest, we call upon the government and other stakeholders to uphold the ban and block lead paint imports.”

“It is regrettable to see continued importation and sale of leaded spray paints in the country as less harmful, cost-effective substitutes are readily available,” said Jeiel Guarino, Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaigner, International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN).  “It is good public policy to eliminate every source of lead exposure as lead is considered a non-threshold toxicant among young children—there is no known safe threshold for childhood lead exposure.”

For its latest market monitoring, the group were able to purchase one King Sfon Aerosol Spray (grass green), three Koby Spray Paint (canary yellow, fresh green and Suzuki red) and two Standard Aerosol Spray Paint (art yellow and orange yellow), which were among the 37 spray paints proscribed by the FDA due to their lead content.

With the aid of an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) chemicals analyser, the group detected very high concentrations of lead on the six samples.  The XRF screening results showed Koby (canary yellow) with 90,400ppm of lead, Koby (fresh green) 73,900 ppm, Standard (art yellow) 56,790ppm, Standard (orange yellow) 46,720, King Sfon (grass green) 38,130 and Koby (Suzuki red) with 22,960ppm.

Past laboratory tests commissioned by the EcoWaste Coalition had confirmed high levels of lead in these and other colours of King Sfon, Koby and Standard sprays paints sold in the market, including in online shopping platforms.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health impacts, particularly on the development of the brain and nervous system.”

“Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems and kidney damage,” the WHO said. “Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight.”

“There is no level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects,” the WHO emphasised, adding “lead exposure is preventable.”

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