Coalition exposes falsely labeled ‘lead free’ paints

The mislabeling of “lead free” paint products when in fact they are not has to stop to protect the public from the adverse health effects of exposure to lead, a toxic chemical banned in the production of paints, insisted the EcoWaste Coalition.

The toxics watchdog group revealed that it has uncovered the illicit sale of 14 “lead free” spray paints with lead content above the maximum limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) despite the country’s historic phase-out of leaded decorative and industrial paints, which took effect on January 1, 2017 and January 1, 2020, respectively.

Based on the laboratory analyses commissioned by the EcoWaste Coalition and performed by SGS, a private testing company, 14 “lead free” spray paints failed the 90 ppm limit and would certainly not qualify as “lead free.”

“The detection of excessive lead levels on supposed ‘lead free’ paint products is absolutely misleading.  This marketing ploy is unacceptable as it can put children, workers and other vulnerable groups at risk of lead exposure, and must be corrected at once,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Marking a product ‘lead free’ or imprinting the pictogram ‘No Pb’ (the chemical symbol for lead) on the label when it contains lead far higher than the 90 ppm limit goes against the right of consumers to be protected from harmful and dangerous products as mandated by Republic Act 7394,” said Atty. Gregorio Rafael Bueta, legal counsel, EcoWaste Coalition.  “The sale of a consumer product of a particular standard (e.g.,“lead free”) when in fact it is not is deemed deceptive and illegal under the law,” he pointed out.

RA 7394, or the Consumer Act of the Philippines, requires the government to implement measures, including packaging and labeling requirements, to protect consumers against hazards to health and safety, as well as protect them against deceptive, unfair and unconscionable sales acts and practices, among other things.

Contrary to their “lead free” mark, six variants of 250 ml Sinag Aerosol Paint were analyzed to contain high lead content. The lemon yellow Sinag Aerosol Paint had 85,800 ppm of lead, the canary yellow had 46,900 ppm, the grass green had 34,600 ppm, the fresh green had 31,800 ppm, the sky blue had 2,330 ppm, and the red oxide anti-rust paint had 4,850 ppm.

The three variants of 400 ml Sinag Spray Paint with the “No Pb” pictogram on the label were likewise found to contain excessive lead levels. The grass green Sinag Spray Paint had 45,500 ppm of lead, the orange yellow had 35,100 ppm, and the cream yellow had 1,700 ppm.

Non-compliant levels of lead were likewise detected on the five variants of 400 ml Korona Spray Paint bearing the “No Pb” pictogram. The yellow Korona Spray Paint had 64,800 ppm of lead, the orange had 50,900 ppm, the violet had 1,200 ppm, the signal red had 1,100 ppm, and the rose pink had 428 ppm.

To remedy the situation, the EcoWaste Coalition urged concerned agencies to act jointly to actively enforce the national ban on all lead-containing paints and the relevant provisions of RA 7394 that will protect consumers from falsely labeled “lead-free” paints. The group also called on the authorities to immediately recall and remove from store shelves the leaded paint products, and also to stop their sale online.

As specified in R.A. 7394, consumer products sold in the country, whether manufactured here or abroad, must comply with the necessary labeling requirements, including the correct and registered trade name or brand name; registered trademark; registered business name and address of the manufacturer, importer, or re-packer; general make or active ingredients; net weight; and country of manufacture if imported.

As spray paints sold offline and online are mostly sourced from abroad, the EcoWaste Coalition also urged the government, particularly the Bureau of Customs, to refuse admission of imported paint products not compliant to the 90 ppm lead limit and other applicable regulations such as those on product labeling. Recognizing the dangers when surfaces previously coated with lead paint are disturbed, the EcoWaste Coalition further urged the authorities to require paint can labels to also provide a health warning on lead-contaminated dust that can be created during painting, renovation or repair activities.