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A Toxics-Free Future

Hindustan Times: This Diwali, lead-free paint will be a national norm

Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

By Diwali this year, paints in India will be sold with less than one percent of lead that causes indoor pollution and is harmful for children.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has prescribed new draft rules that allows maximum of 90 parts per million (ppm) or .09% in the paints to be sold for both domestic and industrial purposes across India.

“It is a standard similar to international level,” said Ravi Aggarwal of non-government advocacy group, Toxic Link. It meant that paints will not contain any added lead. “In case of added lead, the toxic level rises to 500 ppm,” he said.

According to studies, high lead content in paints leads to indoor air pollution and affects children the most. “Exposure to lead can hamper brain development in children. High exposure can even lead to neurological problems,” the World Health Organisation (WHO) said recently.

The new guidelines will impact small and medium scale paint industry, which contributes to about 40% of the estimated business of Rs 40,600 crore in 2015-16. The organised sector already meets the standard.

The officials said big paint companies were pushing the government to have a national norm to ensure a level playing field. The paints manufactured by unorganised sector is 20-30% cheaper than that by the organised sector.

A 2013 study by Toxic Link showed high levels of lead in most paints being sold in the market, which was more than 1,000 times the proposed standard of 90 ppm. To meet the new standard, the CPCB has come out with a detailed compliance and testing procedure which the manufacturers will have to abide by.

For paint already manufactured, self-certification by manufacturers on lead content has been allowed, which would be checked randomly by nationally designated laboratories. But for new paints, pre-testing from certified agencies has been made mandatory.

In addition, the CPCB will also conduct random sample testing of paints to find whether manufacturers were complying with the new norm or not.  “Three to five samples shall be drawn depending on the quantity of a particular batch,” says the guideline, which will come into effect from November 11, 2017

The rule also prescribes mandatory submission of annual report to the CPCB.