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New Study Finds Dangerously High Lead Levels in Mexican Paints
Paint Labeled “Lead Free” Contained 130,000 ppm Lead
Guadalajara, México. A new study on lead in architectural decorative paints sold for home use in México released today by Casa Cem and IPEN finds that more than one-fourth of the paints analyzed contained dangerously high total lead content greater than 10,000 parts per million (ppm). The maximum permissible limit on lead in paint in e.g. USA and Canada is 90 ppm—the same threshold recommended by the UN Environment Programme. One yellow paint from the brand, General Paint, contained the highest amount of lead at 200,000 ppm. Moreover, a yellow paint from the brand, Pinturas y Matices, labeled as “lead-free” contained 130,000 ppm lead.
“Exposure to lead even at low levels has irreversible and lifelong impacts to children, especially those aged six years and below—the critical age for brain development,” said Sofia Chávez, General Director of Casa Cem. “We must eliminate this perilous source of lead exposure to young children to protect their intellectual growth and maximize our nation’s future intellectual capacity. This can be done now since safe and effective alternatives to lead are already in use and generally available in México.”
The economic cost in México due to the neurodevelopmental effect of children exposed to lead are equivalent to 1.86% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“Lead paint is a major source of childhood lead poisoning and there are no known safe levels of exposure,” said Dr. Sara Brosché, Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaign Manager, IPEN. “We see globally that countries have therefore increasingly started to adopt strong regulatory controls to ban use of lead in all types of paint to protect their children. We join Casa Cem in urging the government of México to adopt and enforce strong legally binding limits on lead in paint. In addition, it is important that paints are subjected to independent lead content certifications to ensure that paints labeled “lead free” or similar claims do not contain high levels of lead as seen in this study.”
From January to March 2018, Casa Cem purchased a total of 118 cans of solvent-based paint intended for home use representing 39 brands produced by 38 manufacturers from various stores in Guadalajara and Puebla, México. All brands were manufactured in México. Samples from these paints were analyzed by an accredited laboratory in the USA for total lead content.
Key findings from the report, Lead in Solvent-Based Paints for Home Use in México, include:
- More than half (55 percent) of the solvent-based paints contained lead concentrations above 90 ppm. Moreover, 27 percent of the paints contained dangerously high lead concentrations above 10,000 ppm.
- The highest lead concentration detected was 200,000 ppm in a yellow decorative paint from the brand, General Paint.
- One yellow paint from the brand, Pinturas y Matices, labeled as “lead-free” contained 130,000 ppm lead. Four other paints wrongly advertised as “lead-free” contained lead levels ranging from 2,700 ppm to 11,000 ppm, while two paints labeled “does not contain heavy metals” contained 54,000 ppm and 6,700 ppm of lead.
- 59 percent of the brands in the study sold at least one paint with dangerously high lead concentrations above 10,000 ppm.
- Orange and yellow paints were the most hazardous with 67 and 66 percent containing lead concentrations greater than 10,000 ppm, respectively. In addition, 17 percent of red paints contain dangerous levels of lead above 10,000 ppm.
There is currently no regulation that prohibits the use of lead in paint in México. Existing Mexican standards do not set a specific maximum permissible limit for lead as a contaminant in paint, but a new standard that will establish a maximum total lead content of 90 ppm in decorative, architectural household paints is currently being drafted by the Federal Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS), an office depending from the National Health Ministry.
Most highly industrial countries adopted laws or regulations to control the lead content of decorative paints—the paints used on the interiors and exteriors of homes, schools, and other child-occupied facilities—beginning in the 1970s and 1980s. In Asia and Africa, many countries have adopted new strong regulatory controls the past ten years.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes lead paint as a major source of “lead-caused mental retardation,” a disease WHO identifies as one of the top ten diseases whose health burden among children was due to modifiable environmental factors. WHO further states that “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.”
Key recommendations made in the report include:
- Government: For the Ministry of Health, through COFEPRIS, to immediately establish a regulation that will ban the manufacture, import, export, distribution, sale and use of all paints (including industrial paints) that contain total lead concentrations exceeding 90 ppm. Existing standards on lead in paint must be mandatorily enforced, compliance monitoring procedures must be carried out, and penalty provisions must be established.
- Industry: Stop the use of lead-based pigments, driers, and other additives in paint formulations, and shift to non-hazardous alternatives. Paint companies that have shifted to non-lead paint production should get their products certified through independent, third party verification procedures to verify “lead-free” claims.
- Consumers: Purchase and use paints with no added lead, especially in places frequently used by children such as homes, schools, day care centers, parks and playgrounds, and demand full disclosure of a paint product’s content.
IPEN is a global non-government organization (NGO) with participating organizations in more than 100 countries working for a toxics free future. It has conducted studies of lead in paint in more than 50 countries and is a member of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint Advisory Group. For information, visit www.ipen.org.
About Casa Cem
Casa Cem is a Mexican non-government organization (NGO) which general objective is to contribute to the improvement of the socio- environmental conditions in the western region of Mexico through governance, management, education, training, advocacy, communication, and research projects concerning the natural resources and their interaction with humans. For more information, visit www.casacem.org.
For More Information:
Sofía Chávez, Casa Cem, +52 33 36154499, email@example.com
Sara Brosché, IPEN, +46 31 7995900, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeiel Guarino, IPEN, +46 31 7995930, email@example.com
 Attina, T. M., & Trasande, L. (2013). Economic costs of childhood lead exposure in low-and middle-income countries. Environmental health perspectives, 121(9), 1097. Available from: https://med.nyu.edu/departments-institutes/pediatrics/divisions/environmental-pediatrics/research/policy-initiatives/economic-costs-childhood-lead-exposure-low-middle-income-countries
 World Health Organization. Lead poisoning and health (2015). Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs379/en/.