Health hazard on walls: Most decorative paints contain lead

Sustained exposure can lead to permanent brain damage in children, say experts

Our Correspondent November 01, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Dangerously high levels of lead contamination have been found in most solvent-based decorative paints sold in Pakistan.

This was revealed by a recent research on the health hazards of lead paint and implementation of relevant laws. The report was launched by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) on Tuesday.

The study shows that 35 out of 58 (over 60 per cent) paint samples were drawn from 21 brands contained lead above permissible limit of 90 parts per million (ppm), while 14 paints (24 per cent of total sampled) contained dangerously high levels of lead content over 10,000ppm.

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To make matters worse, most paints failed to carry any consumer information about lead content.

“It is our children and women who are most affected by exposure to lead,” said Dr Imran Khalid, a research fellow at SDPI and the lead author of the research report.

“The health impacts on their brains are lifelong, irreversible and untreatable,” he said, adding, “we can no longer be oblivious to the environmental threats facing our communities. It is high time we started implementing laws and regulations which cater to these threats.

SDPI’s Senior Advisor on Chemicals and Sustainable Industrial Development Dr Mahmood Khwaja termed the study a need of the hour since it instigates the need for more research.

“We need to constitute a ‘Lead-Free Paint Committee’ by engaging all stakeholders including government, industry, universities and research and development institutions and civil society representatives, which would continue working on lead-free solutions, sustainable actions, and conduct research and advise government and private sector on the subject,” he said, while calling for effective implementation of existing regulations.

Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) Director General Farzana Shah said dire health implications of lead contamination are seldom debated in our society owing to lack of knowledge and ignorance.

“This hazardous substance inhibits the production of haemoglobin in the human body, which can cause dire health implications. EPA is striving hard and taking measures to make Pakistan a lead-free country,” she added.

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Dr Sofia Khalid, a professor at the Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU), said that lack of appropriate data on lead contamination in the environment and its impact on human health, especially on children and women, was a major obstacle for tackling this issue.

“Our university students, especially environmental science students, should be encouraged to conduct their research on this under-explored area to highlight the issue on substantive evidence grounds,” she added.

Other key findings of the research show that 17 out of 21 paint brands produced at least one product whose lead concentration was over 90 ppm.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2017.

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