Environmental research

Examination of lead concentrations in new decorative enamel paints in four countries with different histories of activity in lead paint regulation.

PMID 24819125


Paints with high lead concentrations (ppm) continue to be sold around the world in many developing countries and those with economies in transition representing a major preventable environmental health hazard that is being increased as the economies expand and paint consumption is increasing. Prior lead paint testing had been performed in Brazil and India and these countries were selected to examine the impact of a new regulatory limit in Brazil and the impact of efforts of non-governmental organizations and others to stop the use of lead compounds in manufacturing paints. Armenia and Kazakhstan, in Central Asia, were selected because no information on lead concentration in those regions was available, no regulatory activities were evident and non-governmental organizations in the IPEN network were available to participate. Another objective of this research was to evaluate the lead loading (µg/cm(2)) limit determined by X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) for areas on toys that are too small to obtain a sample of sufficient size for laboratory analysis. The lead concentrations in more than three-fourths of the paints from Armenia and Kazakhstan exceeded 90 ppm, the limit in the United States, and 600 ppm, the limit in Brazil. The percentages were about one-half as high in Brazil and India. The average concentration in paints purchased in Armenia, 25,000 ppm, is among the highest that has been previously reported, that in Kazakhstan, 15,700 ppm, and India, 16,600, about median. The average concentration in Brazil, 5600 ppm, is among the lowest observed. Paints in Brazil that contained an average of 36,000 ppm before the regulatory limit became effective were below detection (< 9 ppm) in samples collected in the current study. The lack of any apparent public monitoring of paint lead content as part of regulatory enforcement makes it difficult to determine whether the regulation was a major factor contributing to the decline in lead use in these paints. Using data from the current study and those available from other studies 24 of 28 paints from major brands in India decreased from high concentrations to 90 ppm or lower. Since lead concentrations in golden yellow paints from these brands were found to decrease to ≤ 90 ppm, it is possible that all 28 of these paints now contain ≤ 90 ppm since yellow paints usually have the highest lead concentrations. Other brands in Brazil and India that have been analyzed only one time had lead concentrations up to 59,000 ppm and 134,000 ppm, respectively. Less than one-third of the paints had notations on their labels with information about lead content and these were sometimes inaccurate. The label from one brand indicating "no added lead" contained paint with 134,000 ppm lead, the highest found in this study. Three percent (3 of 98) of the paints with surface lead loading that did not exceed 2 µg/cm(2), the limit established by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act for small areas on toys, contained greater than 90 ppm lead and thus were false negatives. Of the new paint samples that contained ≤ 600 ppm, 88% contained ≤ 90 ppm. Of the samples that contained ≤ 90 ppm, 97% contained ≤ 45 ppm and 92% contained ≤ 15 ppm. Based on these data it appears to be technically feasible to manufacture paints containing ≤ 90 ppm and in many cases to produce paints that have lead concentrations that do not exceed 15 ppm.