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Alternatives to Lead in Paint
Non-leaded pigments, driers and anti-corrosive agents have been widely available for decades and are used by manufacturers producing the highest quality paints. In most cases, by avoiding the use of lead pigments, lead driers and other intentionally added lead compounds, a paint manufacturer will produce paints that have lead content well below 90 ppm and that can be sold in any country in the world.
If a case arises in which a paint product has been analyzed and found to contain somewhat more than 90 ppm lead, but the paint manufacturer claims to have eliminated the use of all intentionally added lead compounds, the source of the lead might be significant lead contamination in one or more of the paint ingredients. Highly contaminated ingredients can be easily avoided by a paint manufacturer that uses appropriate quality control procedures and that informs its vendors that paint ingredients with high lead contamination are not acceptable.
Highly industrial countries in North America, Western Europe and elsewhere have strictly controlled the lead content of all decorative paints sold and used in their countries for decades. (They have also controlled the lead content of paints used on children’s toys and for some other applications likely to contribute to childhood lead exposure.) Even in the absence of specific laws and regulations, some paint manufacturers in most developing countries and countries with economies in transition are already producing unleaded paints and compete well in the marketplace. Appropriate substitute ingredients are widely available, and the cost to manufacturers associated with reformulating decorative paints the U.S. to avoid the use of added lead compounds appears to be minimal.
While the obstacles associated with the elimination of lead-based ingredients in the manufacture of decorative paints appear to be minimal, there may be additional technical obstacles or costs associated with eliminating the use of lead compounds in some categories of industrial paints. For this and other reasons, when governments consider the adoption of legally binding laws, regulations, standards and/or procedures to control the production, import, sale and use of lead paints, priority might be given to controls addressing decorative paints and paints for the other applications that are most likely to contribute to childhood lead exposure.
Lead paints used for certain industrial applications have a long history of contributing to occupational lead exposure in workers. In addition, there are cases where leaded industrial paints also contribute to lead exposure in children (as, for example, when lead industrial paints are inappropriately used for outdoor playground equipment or used on bridges and other structures near areas where children may play). Although highly industrial countries do not have a consistent history of strictly controlling the lead content of all industrial paints, this is now changing.
Starting in May 2015, the European Union will strictly control the manufacture and import of lead chromate pigments and their use in all categories of paints and coatings. This has led European pigment manufacturers to phase out of the production of lead-based pigments in Europe, and it is has led some paint manufacturers that serve the European market to phase out the use of lead pigments in all their paint and coatings products. In July 2012, DuPont, the world’s leading manufacturer of automotive paints, announced it will discontinue the use of all leaded pigments in all the lines of automotive paints it produces. In August 2012, AkzoNobel, the world’s largest paint and coatings manufacturer, became the first major industrial coatings producer to eliminate the use of added lead compounds in all of its products with the decision of its Marine and Protective Coatings unit to eliminate the use of lead chromates in paints used for marine applications.