Metal water bottles with lead paint can harm children’s health

As the observance of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week kicks off this Sunday, a toxics watchdog group urged retailers to stop the sale of lead painted metal water bottles that may pose a lead exposure risk, especially to young children.

The EcoWaste Coalition appealed for retailers’ speedy action after finding excessive levels of lead on the surface paint of nine metal water bottles in violation of DENR A.O. 2013-24, or the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds that bans such chemicals in paint greater than 90 parts per million (ppm).

“As the paints used in these water bottles pose a health and safety hazard, we appeal to all ethical and socially responsible retailers to take them off the shelves, recall products already sold, and send the remaining units back to where they were sourced,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“In pursuance of the country’s ban on lead-added paints, we urge all companies to only manufacture, import, distribute or sell duly certified lead-safe products that will not harm consumer health,” he emphasized, noting “young children are most susceptible to lead poisoning.”

The group explained that the surface coating of a lead painted metal water bottle will break or chip over time due to regular use and wear and tear of the product, and may end up being ingested by a child, causing a health and safety hazard.    

As part of its continuing advocacy for a toxics-free society, the group recently purchased 22 painted metal water bottles costing P125 to P420 each from retail stores located in Caloocan, Makati, Manila, Pasay and Quezon Cities. The items are mostly unlabeled or labeled in foreign characters.

The products collected from the test buys were subsequently screened for lead using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device, which detected lead in the range of 1,319 to 93,380 ppm in nine samples (41 per cent).

The surface coating  of a green painted water container with “Super Elephants” design was found to contain 93,380 ppm of lead; a yellow container with “Minion” design had 43,500 ppm; a yellow container with “Bear” design had 23,100 ppm; a red container with “happy day for you” text had 9,559 ppm; a yellow container with a “Giraffe” design had 9,304 ppm; a brown container with “Winnie the Pooh” design had 7884 ppm;  a red container with “Car” design had 7,704 ppm; a pink container with white dots had 2,047 ppm; and a plain red container had 1,319 ppm of lead.

“The non-detection of lead in 13 out of 22 samples points to the commercial availability of paints without toxic lead additives.  It also signifies that products can be safely decorated with unleaded paints,” noted Dizon.

According to an infographic produced by the World Health Organization (WHO), “lead is toxic and is harmful to everyone,” stressing “there is no safe level of lead exposure.”

“Young children are most vulnerable.  Their nervous systems are still developing and they absorb 4-5 times more lead than adults, which can cause intellectual disability, underperforming at school and behavioral issues,” said WHO.

“In adults, lead exposure increases the risk of ischaemic heart disease and stroke.  In pregnant women, lead exposure damages many organs but also affects the developing fetus,” added WHO.

WHO, the United Nations Environment Programme, the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), which includes the EcoWaste Coalition, and other partners of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint are raising awareness about the health effects of lead exposure, and are promoting the accelerated global phase-out of lead paint through regulatory policies and measures.