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Govt. yet to ban paints laced with lead
Source: Republica, Date: March , 2013
Kathmandu, March 20: Two
years ago, Indrajeet Mandan, 49, who worked as a painter, suddenly passed out
while painting the walls of a house at Bouddha, Kathmandu. His friends
immediately rushed him to the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH).
The doctors at the hospital suggested to
Indrajeet to take some rest from his painting job. â€śThe doctors there advised
to take a rest and warned that I would have to visit the hospital if I
continued my work as a painter,â€ť he says. It was only then that Indrajeet
acknowledged the risk his working as a painter entailed. â€śI have been working as a painter for
the last seventeen years. But it is only after it took a heavy toll on my
health that I now understand that working as a painter has an adverse effect on
health,â€ť shares Mandan.
But the simple understanding does not make
things easier for Indrajeet. In the rough and tumble of this world, he has to
work hard to earn his livelihood. His lack of education makes things all the
more difficult. â€śI donÂ´t have an academic degree for a white collar job,â€ť says
There are many others, who like Indrajeet, are
compelled to choose hazardous occupation and suffer from its ill effects.
Paints usually contain lead, a chemical element, use of which has been banned
in many countries. This element is responsible for adverse health effects.
However, painters are not the only lot exposed
to the adverse effects of lead. Children are at a higher risk of lead poisoning
as a growing body absorbs more lead than that of an adult. Most commonly,
children are exposed to lead through ingestion of lead dust.
â€śChildren are exposed to the ill effects of the
chemical element through normal hand to mouth activity,â€ť says Ram Charitra Sah,
executive director at the Center for Public Health and Environment Development
(CEPHED), a Kathmandu-based NGO.Studies conducted by CEPHED and Leaders Nepal,
another NGO, shows that paints manufactured in Nepal and imported from various
other countries like India, China, the United States, Malaysia, Taiwan, South
Korea, Singapore and Austria contain lead.
According to a study conducted by CEPHED in
2010, of the 24 samples that were tested, 13 were enamel, which contains high
level of the highly dangerous chemical element.
A subsequent study in 2011 by CEPHED showed that
all the 13 types of enamel, which were tested in the 2010 study, had high
concentration of lead. â€śMost of the paints available in the Nepali market
contain more than 90ppm of lead, which is above the internationally accepted
standard,â€ť says Sah.
Yellow, blue, orange, red and green paint, which
look brighter, contain high amount of lead, according to experts. Schools are
also using these colors to look attractive, ignoring their adverse impacts on
the health of students.
â€śOur study conducted in 2012 shows that school
children are at a higher risk of lead poisoning,â€ť says Dhiraj Pokhrel, general
secretary of Leaders Nepal. â€śWe had taken 50 students from Dharan as our sample
and many of them were found to be suffering from the adverse effects of lead,â€ť
adds Pokhrel. Pokharel also suggested that the students check their blood at
least once a year to make sure that they do not suffer from the ill effects of
the harmful chemical element.
Lead is a harmful chemical element, which is
added to paint to speed up drying, increase durability, maintain fresh
appearance and resist moisture that causes decay. Decorative paints are the
main source of lead. These paints mainly used in a wide variety of products,
including ceramics, pipes, gasoline, batteries, cosmetic etc.
Lead poisoning causes headaches, irritability,
abdominal pain, vomiting, anemia, weight loss, slowed speech development,
slowed growth, damage to the circulatory system, reproductive system and
gastro-intestinal system etc.
The only way to diagnose lead poisoning is to
test blood regularly. â€śWe do not have any instrument to check lead poisoning
but this has not slowed the use of paints with high concentration of the
harmful chemical element,â€ť says Pokhrel.
The government has been participating in Global
Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paint annually, but the government has not yet
shown any commitment to ban the use of paints with high concentration of lead.
â€śWe have held several discussions on the harmful
effects of paints with high concentration of lead. But the government is yet to
take a decision to ban the use of such paints,â€ť reveals Shankar Poudel of Nepal
Bureau of Standards and Metrology.
Why 90 ppm is good for Nepal
Internationally adopted value for lead is 90 ppm
(particles per million) and every country has been striving to meet that global
standard except for Nepal. Although Nepal participates in the meeting of the
Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paint (GAELP) every year, Nepal continues
to import foreign-manufactured paints with lead content higher than 1000 ppm.
"Paint industry uses more than 1000 ppm of
lead because this makes the paint darker and causes the paint to dry quickly,
" shares Ram Charitra Sah, executive director of the Center for Public
Health and Environmental Development (CEPHED). In 2012, Nepal Bureau of
Standards & Metrology conducted a study on lead contamination in paints in
the Nepali market. For the study 15 paints samples were taken and among them 12
below 90ppm while the remaining samples had over 5000 ppm of lead.
And in 2010, 24 paints samples were tested by
CEPHED, and among them 10 had less than 90 ppm of lead and others had more than
73000 ppm of lead. "Our study showed that enamel paints were the major
source of lead," says Sah. And again they conducted another study in 2011
using 27 samples but only 10 samples had less than 90 ppm of lead.
NepalÂ´s neighboring countries are also striving
to implement global standards. China has already implemented it and Indian has
recently proposed to limit the lead content in paits at 90 ppm. If Nepal too is
able to implement the global standards then this will help boost our paints
exports, say experts.
Â´Lead-free paints difficult propositionÂ´
Mr Bishwa Saakha
President, Nepal Paints ManufacturersÂ´ Association
Do you admit that paints available in Nepali
market contain lead?
Yes, and I think many people are aware of it.
And many studies were also conducted that showed there is lead contamination in
paints. But, I donÂ´t think this issue is very pressing. Lead is also found even
in vermilion powder. Do people stop using vermillion powder even after knowing
that it contains lead? No, and the same goes for our paints, too.
Do you mean lead contaminated paints are usable?
ArenÂ´t they harmful?
No, I donÂ´t mean to say that. Lead contaminated
paints are certainly harmful for humans. But we donÂ´t have other options right
now and our unstable government cannot afford to go for other alternatives. And
another major problem is that the market is flooded with imported paints and
lead content is high in most of these paints compared to Nepalese-manufactured
paints. Our country is like dumping site for other countries as they dump all
the lead contaminated paints in Nepal.
So, what could be its proper solution?
First, the government should inquire about all
the imported paints and formulate policy accordingly. Only then can we think
about lead-free paint in Nepal. But I donÂ´t think the government is currently
in position to resolve the problem.
Is there any plan of our association to solve
lead poisoning in paints?
The problem cannot be resolved until and unless
the people themselves become aware about the health hazards associated with
lead and are ready to pay for lead-free technology, which is relatively
Also the factories that manufacture paints do
not have technology and funds for manufacturing lead-free paints. Merely
putting pressure on the paints manufacturers to go for lead-free technology
does not work because both the manufacturers and the customers in Nepal should
first be able to afford such technology.
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