The International Paint and Printing Ink Council, with counsel from the American Coatings Association, will take the coatings industry’s lead in the global initiative to end the use of lead in paints, ACA reports.
The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paint, which held its inaugural meeting in May, is a voluntary partnership of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
A global push to ban lead in paint has been gathering steam for years. The World Summit on Sustainable Development committed in 2002 to phasing out lead in paint and gasoline. UNEP’s Governing Council endorsed that agenda in 2003, calling upon governments worldwide to “act urgently … to phase out lead-based paint.”
In 2008, the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety adopted the Dakar Resolution for Eliminating Lead in Paints; in 2009, a committee of the Group of Eight also addressed the issue in a meeting in Syracuse, Italy.
UNEP recently approved the Global Alliance initiative under the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), and about 30 organizations attended the alliance’s inaugural meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
“Today, paints containing lead are still widely manufactured and sold for use in many countries of the developing world,” the alliance reported in a newsletter in March. “Therefore, it is very likely that most of the world’s population lives in countries where domestic paints with high lead levels are readily available.”
The alliance’s goal “is to prevent children’s exposure to lead via paints containing lead and to minimize occupational exposures to lead in paint,” the newsletter reported.
“The broad objective is to phase out the manufacture and sale of paints containing lead and eventually to eliminate the risks from such paint.”
The alliance’s first meeting took a number of organizational and administrative steps, according to attendee ACA. Specific work plans are under development in four key areas: Industry Outreach, Legislation and Regulation, Health Effects, and Environmental Issues.
“It is anticipated that IPPIC will play a critical role in developing industry messaging on product stewardship with respect to limiting use of lead in coatings, provide insight on residual (i.e. ‘not intentionally added’) lead content, and assist in crafting a framework for developing legislative and certification programs,” said a statement by ACA.
“ACA, through its Product Stewardship Committee, will seek to advise IPPIC on the U.S. experience to foster a consistent approach to that found in the United States. ACA's Board and Executive Committee will be consulted on critical industry positions.”
UNEP has previously addressed other chemicals of global concern, ACA noted.
“As the focus this time is on ‘lead in paint,’ it is important for the coatings industry that any initiative be established in a fair and equitable manner,” according to ACA’s release. “That being said, IPPIC members support limitations on lead use in paints where there is the potential for exposure and health risks to children and will work to promote this understanding among partnership participants.”
ACA said that any action on lead should be “risk based.”
“Some years ago, when the effort was first proposed, the U.S. Council for International Business worked closely with the International Chamber of Commerce to amend language that would have supported bans, restrictions and other actions against chemicals based solely on the hazards they manifest.,” ACA said. “As it stands now, any lead restrictions contemplated under the alliance would need to align with a risk-based approach.
IPPIC has formally committed to assist the alliance in several critical areas:
• Information exchange on lead levels in paints in various countries;
• Information exchange on national, provincial, state, and local regulations and legislations on lead concentrations in paints allowed in various countries;
• Information exchange on labeling and certification systems on the presence and concentrations of lead concentrations in paint;
• Discussing and providing technical assistance on steps that can be taken to phase out lead from paints and surface coatings;
• Developing guidelines for establishing national standards;
• Providing international support to developing countries by further elaboration of methods to enact comprehensive laws to phase out lead paint uses which contribute to childhood exposure;
• Sharing knowledge on the availability of substitutes to replace lead compounds in paints;
• Assessing the feasibility of the voluntarily phase-out of the production of lead paints; and
• Discussion on steps to reach renovators, painters and other professionals on how to minimize children's exposure to lead from lead paint.”
IPPIC says the Global Alliance “must establish a working definition of lead paint” that focuses on “the health risks of concern.” It offers this definition, which it calls “consistent with industry trade practice”:
"The term ‘lead paint' includes paints, varnishes, lacquers, stains, enamels, glazes, primers or coatings used for any purposes where lead is intentionally added to achieve a defined lead concentration expressed as a percentage of the total non-volatile portion of the product or in the weight of the dried paint film."