From: Editor, ENN
Published August 4, 2009 11:33 AM

Use of Lead Based Consumer Paints Remains A Global Concern

In a new study conducted by the University of Cincinnati (UC), environmental health researchers found that major countries in three continents fail to acknowledge the hazards of lead based paint, allowing manufacturers to continue selling consumer paints containing dangerously high levels of lead. According to study, 73 percent of consumer paint brands tested from 12 countries representing 46 percent of the world’s population exceeded current U.S. standard of 600 parts per million (ppm). Additionally, 69 percent of the brands had at least one sample exceeding 10,000 ppm. Scott Clark, a professor of environmental health at UC, stated that "lead paint exposure remains a serious global health threat" considering the majority of American consumer goods are being produced overseas.

The study was published today in the journal Environmental Research online. According to a press release issued by UC, "the report comes on the tail of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s enforcement of heightened restrictions on lead in American consumer paints, which will take effect Aug. 9, 2009, and will lower the allowable lead limit from 600 ppm to 90 ppm."


Professor Clark’s research team has been studying the global use of lead-based consumer paints for several years, publishing one of the first scientific reports in September 2006 showing that unregulated Asian countries produced and sold new consumer paints that greatly exceeded U.S. lead safety levels. According to the earlier study, "75 percent of the consumer paint samples tested from countries without controls— including India, Malaysia and China—had levels exceeding U.S. regulations."

Lead poisoning in children is a widely recognized health concern, yet lead based paints remain widely used. Why? Is the cost of lead based paint cheaper and therefore more essential in these developing nations? Apparently no. According to the UC press release, Clark states "our studies have shown that when comparing the prices of the same size can of paint produced by several companies within India with a wide range of lead concentrations, there is no significant consumer price difference between leaded and unleaded consumer paint."

Maybe the technology needed to create high-quality unleaded consumer paint is not available? Not according to the study. During the course of the UC study, one large multi-national company produced low lead paint in each country studied and another manufacturer was found to cease the use of lead in paints in at least one of the countries studied. Clark further states that the "technology is available to manufacturers, which do not need to use lead to produce high-quality paint...there is no legitimate reason paint manufacturers should knowingly distribute a product that has long been known to be dangerous to people."

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