In Celebrating the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action, Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ)/Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka and IPEN (International Pollutants Elimination Network) reminds the public to avoid sources of lead poisoning in order to ensure lead safety.

Lead is a toxic heavy metal that can cause permanent and irreversible brain damage. If exposed, children’s brain development can be impacted, resulting in; reduced attention span, impaired learning ability, and increased risk of behavioral problems. In adults, it can affect the reproduction endocrine or the hormone system and the cardiovascular system.

The primary source of lead poisoning is paint. In particular, oil-based paint, such as enamel paint, floor paint, anticorrosive, and lacquer. These paints are commonly found on walls of preschools and childcare facilities, children’s play areas, furniture, baby cots, and some toys. Researchers have also revealed that lead is found in some imported plastic and rubber toys, school stationery, paints on porcelain, cosmetics, and artificial jewelry. People working in e-waste recycling plants, car battery recycling plants, metal smelting, construction, and demolition work are also highly vulnerable to lead exposure.

Some Sri Lankan companies including several battery recycling companies still engage in dirty practices. It was revealed that those companies dump lead contaminated liquid waste without following the proper procedures.

“In Sri Lanka, Lead concentration in paint is limited by the Consumer Affairs Authority as a result of a case filed by the Centre for Environmental justice in 2011 based on a research. Accordingly, Enamel and floor paints can have only 600ppm of lead while the limit is 90 ppm for emulsion and paints used on children’s products, effected from 1st January 2013. It is also mandatory to declare on the label that the paint is lead safe. By today, while one company holds the third-party certification with IPEN for lead safety, number of other paints have Sri Lanka Standard certification (SLS) while few other declare the lead safety on the label according to the gazette. Hence, it is consumer’s duty to check for these before purchasing a paint.”

“Many countries in the region have now reduced the maximum permissible Lead level to 90 ppm in all type of paints. It is high time to bring more stringent standards for Sri Lankan paints.”

Mr. Withanage, Executive Director, CEJ.

CEJ wants to remind the general public that lead safety is a matter of choice. Remember always to choose lead-free paint. Be mindful of the toys you buy, and select safe cosmetics and other consumer items. When working with paint in the workplace, always wear appropriate safety gear. Most old buildings still have old coats of paint that contain high lead levels. CEJ warns the public to be careful when removing old paint.

For more information contact;
Hematha WIthanage
Executive Director
Centre for Environmental Justice