Campaign for lead safe paints in India requires mass awareness about impact on child health, environment

toxic1By Mahesh Pandya*, Satish Sinha** and Dr Prashant Rajankar*** 

Gujarat is the main hub of paint and pigment manufacturers in India. Thus, any discussion on lead safe household paints becomes redundant without addressing their needs and blockades faced.

As we campaign for lead safe paints in India, addressing these concerns becomes mandatory. Toxics Link along with Paryavaran Mitra and Paryavarniya Vikas Kendra organized a half-day stakeholders’ meeting to create awareness among paint and pigment manufacturers, citizens and medical professionals on the issue of lead in paints and its adverse impacts on children’s health. The meeting acted as a discussion platform for manufacturers to put their problems, successes and failures.

Lead-based paints have since long been associated with elevated blood lead levels among children and a cause of serious health concern. Scientific evidences have established that children are the most vulnerable population and can be seriously impacted even at very low levels of lead in blood. The adverse effects of lead exposure in children include intellectual and behavioral deficits making lead exposure an important public health concern with huge social and economic cost to nations.

A recent report released in November 2013 by Toxics Link (under IPEN, EU SWITCH Asia Project) “National Report – Lead in India’s Household Enamel Paints” found the average lead content in paint to be 22,800 ppm. Of the 250 paint samples analyzed from all over India, 55 samples were from Gujarat.

The highest concentration detected was 86,000 ppm. Only two paints qualified for sale in the international market which had low lead concentrations (below 90 ppm), as per the international standards.

The issue of lead in paints is a global issue. Many countries across the world have either phased out lead from paints or have restricted the use of lead in paints. In December 2013 Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) revised the standards for lead in decorative paints to 90 ppm, in line with the international standard. However, this standard for lead in paints as notified by BIS is voluntary hence critical need for this to be made mandatory by the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, Government of India.

toxicRepresentatives from the paint industry attending the meeting also stated that uniform lead standard will provide level playing field and provide equal opportunity to the industry hence the need for mandatory standard. It was advised at the meeting that when one buys paints for one’s home, one should check the label to see that it was a lead safe or a lead free paint.

The meeting was attended by various stakeholders, including the officials from Gujarat Pollution Control Board, pigment manufacturer, pediatrician, paint manufacturer, social organizations. The meeting became important in the wider context of uncontrolled use of lead in paints in the country.

About Toxics Link

Toxics Link is an Indian environmental research and advocacy organization set up in 1996, engaged in disseminating information to help strengthen campaign against toxics pollution, provide cleaner alternatives and bring together groups and people affected by this problem. Toxics Link’s Mission Statement is “Working together for environmental justice and freedom from toxics.” We have taken upon ourselves to collect and share both information about the sources and the dangers of poisons in our environment and bodies, and information about clean and sustainable alternatives for India and the rest of the world”

About IPEN Asian Lead Elimination Project (

IPEN is an international NGO network of health and environmental organizations from all regions of the world in which Toxics Link participates. IPEN is a leading global organization working to establish and implement safe chemicals policies and practices to protect human health and the environment.

The project is working in seven Asian countries to eliminate lead in paint and raise widespread awareness among business entrepreneurs and consumers about the adverse human health impacts of lead -based decorative paints, particularly on the health of children under six years old. The seven Asian countries are Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The project includes periodical analyses of lead concentrations in paints; information and support to small- and medium-sized paint manufacturers, dealers, retailers to help them to shift from lead –based to lead-free paints; third party certification and labeling that includes information on lead; help to government institutions to enact the standard for lead in paints; preparation and dissemination of awareness materials and mass awareness programmes about lead paint and adverse impact especially on children’s health and environment.

About Paryavaraniya Vikas Kendra

Paryavaraniya Vikas Kendra (PVK) is a non-profit, non-governmental committed organization working nationwide for the protection of the environment, the rights of the people to clean and fresh water and air, the promotion of sustainable development, and the protection of the cultural heritage of India. PVK believe that if, all of us unite and take proper care in protection and conservation of the limited natural resources, we can give our children a better tomorrow. It is possible only through community participation and awareness.

About Paryavaran Mitra

Paryavaran Mitra is an Ahmedabad-based, registered Non-Governmental Organization working on socio-environmental issues since 1997. Paryavaran Mitra have been especially active in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process giving a special focus to ensure that Environment Public Hearings in the State of Gujarat are a transparent and democratic channel to voice public grievances against industrial pollution and disasters.

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