The government just made your home safer for your children
Due to vigorous lobbying by NGOs in India and mounting international pressure, the Union Government has implemented stricter regulations on the usage of lead in paints
Abeer Kapoor Delhi
In the last week of April, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has notified a new set of rules on the maximum permissible amount of lead that can be used in paints. This is an important policy decision primarily because the presence of lead in paints is extremely harmful to children. Lead-based paint has been banned from residential use in the United States since 1978 because it causes irreparable harm to the developing brains of children and can lead to learning disabilities, behavior problems, and lifelong health issues.
The new policy seeks to prohibit any ‘household and decorative paints’ that contain over 90 parts per million(ppm) of lead. Many other countries have also followed this move and instituted policies of their own. African Countries such as Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Nigeria are some of the countries which have followed suit.
The nodal agency according to these newly drafted rules will be the Bureau of Indian Standards(BIS) that will implement stringent testing norms, certification, and standardisation. This decision of the government has been lauded by many NGO’s and environmental activists.
An Associated Chambers of Commerce of India (ASSOCHAM) report has detailed that the paints market in India is witnessing a compound annual growth rate of more than 20 percent year on year. With the growth in real estate projects all over the country this industry is said to grow exponentially. There are significant spikes which happen in the sales of paints during the festival season as well.
As the sector is largely unorganised, this initiative by the government seeking to ensure better standards will help rein in errant producers who continue to use large quantities of lead in their paints. Measures such as mandating the label of the manufacturer on the container of paint will help in increasing accountability.
Lead is used in paints to lend thickness, give colour, help cover the wall better and protect both the surface below and the paint above. Despite these clear advantages, there is no disputing that the presence of lead in paint has a detrimental impact on children. Toxics Link, an environmental NGO based out of Delhi has released a report detailing the adverse impact of exposure to lead. While lead exposure is also harmful to adults, lead exposure harms children at much lower levels, and the health effects are generally irreversible and can have a lifelong impact. The younger the child, the more harmful lead can be, and children with nutritional deficiencies absorb ingested lead at an increased rate. The human foetus is the most vulnerable, and a pregnant woman can transfer lead that has accumulated in her body to her developing child.
The standards of lead in paint have witnessed a series of legislations all of which have been stalled for some reason or the other. Earlier the permissible amount of lead in paints was set at an astronomical limit of 1000 pm. It is encouraging to see that concerted action by several NGO's across the world has resulted in a welcome policy move.