Lead pollution sources still exist in Lanka – CEJ | Sunday Observer

Lead pollution sources still exist in Lanka – CEJ

1 November, 2020

In marking International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action, the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) and IPEN (International Pollutants Elimination Network) reminds the public to avoid sources of lead poisoning to ensure lead safety.

Lead is a toxic heavy metal that can cause permanent and irreversible brain damage in children, resulting in:  reduced Intelligence Quotient (IQ), reduced attention span, impaired learning ability and increased risk of behavioural problems.

In adults it can affect reproduction, the endocrine or hormone and the cardiovascular system. 

Research shows that the main source of lead poisoning is paint. Specially oil-based paints that we normally know 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 also reveal that lead is found in some imported plastic and rubber toys, school stationery, paint on porcelain, cosmetics and artificial jewelry. People working in; e-waste recycling plants, lead-acid battery and car battery recycling plants, metal smelting, construction and demolition work are highly vulnerable to lead exposure.

Some Sri Lankan companies including several battery recycling companies still engage in dirty practices. It has been found that some companies dump lead contaminated liquid waste without following the proper procedures. Executive Director, CEJ, Withanage said, “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  research. 

“Enamel and floor paints can have only 600 ppm of lead while the limit is 90 ppm for emulsion and paints used on children’s products, effected from January 1, 2013. It is also mandatory to declare on the label that the paint is lead safe. But today, while one company holds the third-party certification with IPEN for lead safety, a number of other paints have Sri Lanka Standard certification (SLS) while a few others declare lead safety on the label according to the Gazette. Hence, it is the consumer’s duty to check for these before purchasing a paint.” “Many countries of the region have now reduced the maximum permissible lead level to 90 ppm in all types of paint. It is high time to bring more stringent standards for Sri Lankan paints,” Withanage stressed. The CEJ wishes to remind the public that lead safety is a matter of choice. Always remember to choose your paint right, mind the toys you buy, select safe cosmetics and other consumer items while using safety gear at work places.

Most old buildings still have old paint coats with high lead levels. Be careful when you remove them the CEJ official warned.