Lead poisoning: govt still dragging heels, paint body claims
02 October 2019 | Web Article Number: ME201916532
IN 10 years, the government has still not prosecuted a single company for producing paint with hazardous lead levels. That’s according to Deryck Spence, Executive Director of the SA Paint Manufacturing Association (SAPMA).
Spence made the observation in the run-up to International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week starting on October 20. The awareness week was introduced by the World Health Organisation to try to reduce the number of fatalities from lead poisoning. The WHO has estimated that 143 000 people died from this last year with leaded paints a major contributor.
“SAPMA has been trying since the promulgation of the Hazardous Substances Act pertaining to lead in paint back in 2009, to have the SA Act amended from the present 600ppm lead in paint to the WHO-UN’s Global Alliance and IPPIC (now the World Coatings Council) internationally-accepted levels of 90ppm,” he said.
“With this objective in mind, the SA Department of Health formed a Technical Working Committee in April 2018 with members drawn from the DoH, the Department of Environmental Affairs, Department of Trade & Industry and the SA coatings industry represented by SAPMA and the Chemical and Allied Industries Association.”
Spence said the original objective was to amend the existing act before the general elections in May 2019, but it soon became evident that this target would not be met because of the demands placed on the coatings industry to comply with measures that would have entailed severe financial burdens that include the changing of all labelling on packaging, tests to be conducted by accredited laboratories before paints can be sold, and affidavits by manufacturers for each batch produced.
“These draconian requirements - during a severe financial downturn - follow a history of absolutely no prosecution by the DoH for companies still using lead-based pigments since promulgation of the Hazardous Substances Act in 2009.
“To aggravate the situation for SAPMA members who are operating on a reduced lead content /reduced profit basis, there is still a continuous flow of imported, cheap paint products from China and other Asian countries landing on our shores – all with questionable levels of lead.”