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Intervention on Lead in Paints Campaign
Interventions under lead in paint programme are as follows:
Research and information creation: Looking at the growing market for decorative paints in India, toxics link began its work against lead in paints with the launch of its report “A Brush with Toxics: An Investigation on Lead in Household Paints in India” in 2007. This was followed with three more reports on lead in paints issue to investigate and extent of lead content in decorative paints found in India (and other developing countries). While the Global Study of 2009 was to Determine Lead in New Decorative Paints from 10 Countries, the latest report “Double Standards….” That was released in September 2011 was an investigative report on Lead Content in Leading Enamel Paint Brands in South Asia.
All the aforementioned reports are based on imperial analysis of samples in an accredited laboratory. However, apart from the above reports, there were several articles written to strengthen the campaign. Articles are listed under publication list.
Policy engagements and advocacy: Our reports and information material on lead in paint issues has been widely circulated among the regulators and government agencies. There have been many instances when the issue was raised in the parliament of India (read – parliament sub-section on the main menu bar) and answers were sought from the concerned ministries.
In particular however, Bureau of Indian Standard happens to be our major stakeholder for intervention in this campaign. Through information exchange and other engagements such as meetings and mails, the BIS was pushed to formulate lead standards for paints in India. Constant follow ups with BIS resulted in it notifying the draft standards for all categories of paints in July 2012 and again in November 2012. The drafts (see publication sub-section) are open for public comments till February 2013.
Corporate engagements: Although the corporate world’s first reactions were not in affirmation to what the findings were showcased through our investigative studies; they later saw the writing on the wall. Information exchange, meeting with the industry decision makers, mails etc. made it possible for majority of the formal players to shift to no-added lead paints manufacturing in the household decorative category by 2011 end. Even some of the smaller manufactures came forward to phase-out lead from decorative business.
Global Alliance and partnership: Toxics Link has been one of the co-founder of the 700+ global networks of public interest organizations called - International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN). Although primarily started to work for the phase-out of POPs, IPEN started addressing other issue of global concern such as ‘lead in paints’. In 2009 Toxics Link and decided to work with other partner organizations in various regions of the world to determine the total lead (Pb) concentration in new decorative paints available in various developing countries in the world in order to know the amount of lead being used in developing countries. Including India samples from 11 countries were tested. The results were glaring and took everyone by surprise due to the high level of risk we are into, through lead in household decorative paints.
South Asia Campaign: Toxics Link has been actively campaigning in the South Asia region for several years on the issue of chemicals safety through a chain of regional partners. Our interest in South Asia lies primarily in the fact that we share some common concerns and the proximity of our borders makes us vulnerable to a spillover of toxic effects. Looking at the closely knit, overlapping and integrated paint business, growing public health concerns over the use of lead in paint in the region and the existing non-enforceable regulatory mechanism, we decided to take up this study of common paint brands in the year 2010-11 to affirm if the acclaimed and responsible multinationals adhere to comparable standards across countries of South Asia region. In short, we wanted to ascertain whether the leading paint manufacturers follow ‘double standard’ in the region. The following broad conclusions were drawn:
a. The regulation of lead in paints in the region is quite lax with countries like Nepal and Bangladesh having no legal mechanism to address this issue;
b. The majority of paint manufacturers continue to add lead in paints across the states of the region;
c. Market leaders such as Asian Paints and Berger seem to follow clear differential standards across the South Asia region
Apart from creating high level of awareness on the issue, the South Asia campaign also built capacity among regional partners to impact policy and practice in the region. As an impact Sri Lanka has already formulated standards for the decorative paints (ranging from 90ppm to 300ppm).
of information and awareness creation: Several factsheets and other IEC materials have been prepared in since the beginning of the campaign (publication sub-section) and have been widely distributed across a range of stakeholders. Apart from the information dissemination there has been a number of meetings on the issue and several interaction sessions with a range of audience. Numerous lectures have been delivered in the schools and colleges.
Media engagements: Electronic and print media are one of most important stakeholders in all our programmes. All the reports and publication of substance have been media released. Large number of media coverage has appeared which has helped us in taking the issue across masses. Some of the recent media coverage on lead in paints issue is provided under the media sections on the menu bar.
Toxics Link in the year 2012 has been awarded the prestigious EU-SWITCH Asia Project (7 Asian Countries) of 3 year duration. The project in India is primarily directed towards the small scale manufacturing of paints that have about 40% market share. Objectives are to:
1. Push for national standards for lead in paints
2. Initiate ‘third party certification’ programme
3. Phase-out lead paints and help shift towards safer alternatives
4. Create awareness among bulk consumers and others to go for lead-free paints
To strengthen the campaign specially focused on small manufactures, about 200 samples of local brands from across India would be tested.