Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Govt proposes to ban household paint with high lead content

The move comes after persistent campaign by environmentalists demanding regulation of high lead content in paints

New Delhi: Aiming to curb damage to public health from lead poisoning, the environment ministry has proposed a ban on the “manufacture, trade, import and export" of household and decorative paints containing metallic lead exceeding 90 parts per million (ppm).

The move follows a persistent campaign by environmentalists demanding regulation of high lead content in paints. At present, there is no mandatory regulation limiting lead content in paints, although the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has suggested that paint makers keep it under 90 ppm.

Lead poisoning has serious damaging effects on human health. For instance, if passed from a mother’s blood to the foetus during pregnancy, it can result in genetic disorders. In growing children, lead poisoning can lead to low IQ, learning disabilities and anaemia. Women who have high blood-lead levels can also develop lower back pain, joint pain and persistent anaemia.

According to a World Health Organization study, lead exposure is estimated to account for 143,000 deaths a year, with developing nations bearing the brunt. Paints are among the major source of lead poisoning. Others are petrol emissions and battery recycling.

The proposed draft of the Regulation on Lead contents in Household and Decorative Paints Rules, 2016 has been put up online for comments and suggestions by all stakeholders, including the general public, for 60 days.

“Any manufacture, trade, import and export of household and decorative paints hereinafter referred to as product containing metallic lead exceeding 90 parts per million is hereby prohibited," said the draft notification published by the Union ministry for environment, forest and climate change on 8 April.

The ministry proposes to make BIS the nodal agency to oversee the implementation of provisions of these rules.

Once the 60-day consultation period is over, the ministry will incorporate the changes, if any, and finalize the rules.

The proposal says that every paint maker or importer should possess a valid certificate of approval from the nodal agency for the manufacture of the product in India or for import into India.

Paint cans will have to carry a label stating that the lead content does not exceed 90 ppm.

Environmentalists are pleased with the move.

“There is no mandatory regulation on lead content in paints at present. BIS had standards to limit lead to 90 ppm in paints but they were voluntary. Thus it is a welcome move as the proposed rules will make it mandatory. It is a serious public health issue. It has come after persistent campaigning for nearly nine years," said Satish Sinha, associate director at Toxics Link, a Delhi-based non-profit working on environmental issues.

Last year, Toxics Link had released a study highlighting high lead content, especially in paints manufactured by small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

“Most of the big paint brands have shifted to 90 ppm limit but SMEs which serve rural and market, Tier II or Tier III cities are yet to follow the limit. This proposal will make everyone fall in line," Sinha added.

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