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A Toxics-Free Future


Consumer group says painting your walls is bad for health

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 18 — The next time you want to paint your walls, make sure it is with lead-free paint as a majority of paint contains high levels of lead which can cause disability in children, a consumer group said today.

Penang Consumers Association (CAP) president SM Mohamed Idris said a study of 72 enamel paints in Malaysia revealed high lead levels.

“People should refrain from using paint with high lead content because lead is hazardous to young children, pregnant women and all who are exposed to it,” he said.

“Why make the walls look pretty when it can cause various health conditions,” he added.

He said Malaysia does not have laws to regulate the amount of lead in paint for household and decorative use, therefore many of the paints available have high levels of lead.

He said CAP conducted a study in 1992 and found seven out of nine enamel paints contained lead above 600 parts per million.

“The highest amount of lead found in that study was 11,700ppm,” he said.

He said CAP has been calling for the government to eliminate lead in paints since 1992 but till today, there were no laws to regulate the amount of lead in paint.

CAP conducted another study in 2016 and 60 per cent of the samples contained exceedingly high lead levels and again called for the government to regulate lead in paint.

“More than two years has passed since then but Malaysian authorities have not come out with laws on lead in paint,” he said.

He said it is high time the government look into banning lead in paints and products and organise awareness campaigns on the dangers of lead.

He said manufacturers can produce lead-free paint as alternatives or lime plaster can also be considered as an alternative to paint.

Mohamed Idris believes red, white and yellow paint contain more lead than any other colours.

“Our country is already backwards, a lot of other countries have laws against this so immediate action needs to be taken to safeguard our future generation,” he said.

He referred to World Health Organisation (WHO) that labels lead paint as “a major flashpoint” for potential lead poisoning in children.

“Children, up to six years old, are most at risk as their intelligence and mental development may be affected by exposure to lead dust and soil,” he said in a press conference at the CAP office today.

He said lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems that leads to learning disabilities, reduced fertility, anti-social behaviour, renal and cardiovascular diseases later in life.

He warned that the health impacts of lead exposure on young children are lifelong, irreversible and untreatable.

He also said the health impacts due to lead exposure also carries with it economic costs.

“A recent study found significant economic impacts of childhood lead exposure on national economies in all low and middle-income countries,” he said.

He estimated that the annual economic loss in Malaysia to be USD11.8 billion (RM38.9 billion) or 2.63 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).