Lead (Pb) compounds have been historically used by paint manufacturers. A number of properties of lead make it commercially attractive for its use in paints. It has colour vibrancy and the ability to hold pigments well. It helps paints stand up well to outside weather elements, impart high degree of corrosion resistance and also reduces drying time. However, lead-based decorative paints (and other products such as gasoline for that matter) have posed several health problems in the developed world. Lead-based paints have long been proven to be associated with elevated blood lead levels in children causing subsequent lead poisoning. Scientific evidences have established that children are the most vulnerable population and can be seriously impacted even at very low levels of lead in blood.
Several Western countries have enacted ban or imposed restriction on the use of lead in interior paints. Countries like the US and China have restricted its use to 90 ppm in decorative paints. The sixth session of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS), held at Dakar, Senegal, adopted a unanimous resolution to eliminate lead from paints worldwide. The International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM3) of Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) held at Nairobi adopted ‘Lead in Paint’ to be one of the emerging policy issues. Its resolution welcomed the formation of Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paints (GAELP) and stressed that activities related to information creation, awareness building, phasing out lead-based paints and lead-poisoning issues be taken up across the globe.
Toxics Link has been awarded the prestigious EU-SWITCH Asia Project (7 Asian Countries) of three- year duration in 2012. The project in India is primarily directed towards the small-scale manufacturing of paints having 40 per cent market share. The overall objectives of the project is to reduce childhood lead poisoning in the country, and activities to be carry out under this objective are:
a) push for national standards for lead in paints;
b) initiate ‘third party certification’ programme;
c) phase-out lead paints and help shift towards safer alternatives; and
d) create awareness among bulk consumers and others to go for lead-free paints. In order to strengthen the campaign specially focused on small manufactures, about 200 samples of local brands from across India would be tested.