New Delhi: Three in four brands of enamel paints used in Indian homes have more lead than prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), according to a report released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based activist organization.
An increase in the level of lead in the bloodstream can damage the development of the central nervous system, making it very dangerous, especially for children and pregnant women.
The report, released on Monday, says tests conducted at CSE’s pollution monitoring laboratory showed that lead was found in 23 of the 25 samples tested and that 18 samples contained lead much higher than the 1,000 parts per million (ppm) limit specified by BIS.
BIS specifications are voluntary, not mandatory for this sector.
“Our households are at risk because we do not know what chemicals are in the products that we use,” said Sunita Narain, director, CSE. CSE, in the past, has tested bottled water, soft drinks and cooking oil for toxins.
The list of firms whose paints were tested by CSE includes Asian Paints India Ltd, Berger Paints India Ltd, ICI India Ltd, Kansai Nerolac Paints Ltd and Shalimar Paints Ltd. ICI was the only company whose paints met BIS standards.
Shalimar Paints’ Superlac brand contained the highest percentage of lead; and the yellow paint from Berger’s Luxol brand showed lead content of 162,559 ppm, 163 times the BIS limit.
The US, Canada and Singapore have tighter rules and allow paints to have lead content up to 600 ppm. The European Union banned the use of lead in paints in 1988.
Abhijit Roy, senior vice-president, sales and marketing, Berger Paints’ said his company is aware of the problem. “We started phasing out the Luxol brand (oil-based paint with a high lead content) from May-June. Dealers still have excess inventory and there is a lag from stopping production to the time it disappears from the shelves.” He added that his company had taken the step “voluntarily”.
A spokesperson for Asian Paints declined to comment and a spokesperson for Shalimar Paints could not be reached for comment.
Roy added that lead is used as a dryer in oil-based paints. “Substituting lead with other substances does not involve much cost escalation, which is why some companies are doing it voluntarily