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Overview of IPEN analysis of water-based paint
It is generally believed that the most common, intentional use of lead compounds is in solvent-based paint because of its chemical properties. IPEN has therefore conducted studies focused on lead in solvent-based paint sold for home use together with NGO partners in almost 60 countries since 2009. However, very little research is done in relation to lead content of water-based paint.
Therefore, in studies in 26 countries conducted between 2015 and 2017, a few cans of water-based paint were also included in the analysis in addition to the solvent-based paint. The rationale for including these paints was that if lead was frequently used in water-based paint, these samples could serve as an early warning.
Of the 63 water-based paints analyzed, six of the 43 yellow paints (14% of yellow paints) contained lead above 90 ppm. The levels in three of the paints were low enough to indicate contamination (100, 220 and 300 ppm), whereas three of these paints contained levels indicating intentionally added lead (1500, 3700, and 21000 ppm).
Table 1. Colors and lead content of analyzed paints
Number of paints
Number of paints with lead content above 90 ppm
This screening of a few water-based paints from 26 countries was only conducted to provide an indication of intentional use of lead compounds in water-based paints and cannot be used to draw any general conclusions.
However, the results show that there were water-based paints on the market in two countries that contained levels of lead indicating intentional use of lead pigments (lead chromates).
Therefore, further studies are justified, that analyze a representative set of samples of water-based paint from a set of countries. This would provide important insights into whether this is a more common practice than generally believed, and if this is especially prevalent for some colors, types of paint, brands or in some countries.