Regulation of toxic elements in paints

Recently “Lead” has been on the headlines of all leading newspapers and channels. Maggi, uncontested choice of national food for engineers, has been taking off the shelves in our country. Reason – Lead content higher than prescribed limits found in samples of Maggi. But is it only “Maggi” that has unacceptable lead?

Heavy metal Lead is considered toxic as increased levels of lead in the body interferes with a variety of body processes and  development of the nervous system particularly in children.Route of exposure to lead is contaminated air, soil, food, and consumer products and is taken up by us through ingestion and inhalation.

Lead was used as pigments in paints earlier. However, lead-based paints have disappeared from consumer sales for residential use in developed countries because of toxicity concerns. Lead pigments have been replaced by titanium pigments and others, in oil based paints and enamels. In general, water based paints or emulsions do not contain lead pigments.

Widespread revolution all over the world has brought in regulations for controlling use of lead in paints. In the US and other developed nations, maximum allowable content is 90 ppm or 0.009%.

In India, the Bureau of Indian Standards has revised the voluntary lead standards in paints to 90 ppm (parts per million), which until 2004, was 1000 ppm or (0.1%)

Organized paint sector in India, with major players like Asian Paints, Kansai nerolac have been continuously striving to keep lead to the minimum and have even introduced products with lead free guarantee and ECO-Mark. The BIS states that “ Eco-mark product shall be packed in such packages which shall be recyclable/reusable or biodegradable. It shall be accompanied with instructions for proper use so as to maximize product performance and minimize wastage. In case of products certified for ECO-Mark the major ingredients and hazardous chemicals shall be marked on the container. The criteria for which the product has been labelled as ECO-Mark may also be marked on the container. “ Unorganized sector which constitutes about 25 – 30%, still produce products that do not comply to the standards.

Hence, it is always advisable to use paint products from well known brands. Also, water based paints, emulsions and enamels are pretty much safer than oil based ones.

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