Indian paint majors are showing their true colours in neighbouring
markets, by including dangerously high levels of lead in their products,
according to a study conducted by some non-governmental organisations
in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
For example, Asian Paints' Golden Yellow shade of paint contains only 90
ppm (parts per million) of lead in India, meeting international
standards. In Nepal, it contained 190 ppm of lead, exceeding global
safety norms, but meeting Indian standards. However, in Bangladesh, the
same shade of paint contained a whopping 43,600 ppm of lead.
Similarly, Berger Paints' Golden Yellow paint has 17,200 ppm of lead in
India – well above any safety limits – but almost 2.12 lakh ppm in
Nepal. In Bangladesh, the same shade contains 1.22 lakh ppm of lead, but
Berger Paints India has no equity stake in its Bangladeshi counterpart,
although they share the same parent brand.
The claim that top paint manufacturers are marketing toxic products in
countries with laxer standards - even while phasing them out in India -
is found in the report titled “Double Standard - Investigating Lead
Content In Leading Enamel Paint Brands In South Asia”.
The report was a collaborative effort by Toxics Link, India, the Center
for Public Health and Environment Development, Nepal, and the
Environment and Social Development Organization, Bangladesh.
The study examined 27 paint samples of common brands from Nepal, India
and Bangladesh for their lead content. Apart from Asian Paints and
Berger, which have manufacturing facilities in Bangladesh and Nepal, the
study also examined samples from ICI and Nerolac, which largely export
their products from India to neighbouring countries, and did not show
such a wide differential.
In a statement, Berger Paints India insisted that it has switched to
lead-free formulations, and suggested that the study's results may have
come from older samples. The study shows that the samples had
manufacturing dates between February 2009 and July 2010.
However, Berger admitted that products in neighbouring countries still
contained lead. “It is expected that Berger will be able to totally
change to lead free formulations in Nepal in a short span of two to
three months,” said the statement, adding that Berger Bangladesh expects
to be lead-free within six months.
Despite repeated attempts by phone and email, Asian Paints did not respond to these allegations.
In recent years, lead has been phased out or restricted in many consumer
products due to serious health impacts, especially in children and
fetuses. The United States has enforced a lead limit of 90 ppm in paint.
While India does not have any mandatory norms, the voluntary limit has
been set at 1,000 ppm. Neither Nepal nor Bangladesh have any safety
standard, mandatory or otherwise.
The study found that 63 per cent of the samples exceeded the American
safety limit, while 44 per cent exceeded the Indian limit.
Urging the region's multinational paint majors to end their toxic double
standards, the NGOs behind the study also called on governments to
swiftly bring enforceable standards to safeguard the health of their