New Delhi, 12 October, 2016 : As India gets festival-ready with people going for a fresh coat of paint on their walls, Toxics Link, an environmental NGO, advises families to opt for safer alternatives – lead-free paints.
Lead is a highly toxic heavy metal that is used in enamel paints because of its anti-fungal and durable property. But its exposure to children, especially below the age of six, can affect their behavioural and cognitive development. Exposure to lead is not only a major reason for brain damage, but can also cause death. According to Satish Sinha, Associate Director, Toxics Link, “The damage caused to children by exposure to lead is irreversible.”
Moreover, lead exposure not only has an impact on our health, but it also causes considerable economic loss to the country. A research by the Section of Environmental Pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine has found that exposure to lead costs India US$ 236 billion annually.
Toxics Link initiated the campaign to phase out lead from decorative paints in 2007, and their recent studies have shown a decline in the levels of lead content in paints in the Indian market. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has also considered this is an important issue, and in this regard issued a draft notification to regulate lead content in household and decorative paints.
Recognising the importance of the issue, World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has taken an initiative - Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP) - to eliminate lead from paints globally, and to prevent children’s exposure to lead from paints and minimize its occupational exposures.
Despite the positive shift, lead based paints are still available in the market. “It is important that people are made to realise the impact lead paints have on health and environment. Consumers should look for the labels “No added lead, mercury and chromium” or “No added lead, mercury, arsenic and chromium” in the paints they purchase,” says Piyush Mohapatra, Sr Programme Coordinator, Toxics Link.
The Government should take a lead in this and push for raising awareness levels among people about the harmful effects of lead paints. And, the occasion of Diwali seems like a good time to urge people to go for lead-free paints.
Toxics Link is an environmental research and advocacy organisation set up in 1996 by The Just Environment Charitable Trust. It lays a special emphasis on reaching out to numerous grassroots groups; community based organisations and the public at large through its empirical study-based information on environmental issues. Toxics Link works closely with all other stakeholders who are working on similar issues and has played a seminal role in facilitating the development of several common platforms for them at the national, regional as well as international levels.
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