Lead Makes Veneration Risky Business
Tens of millions of Catholics in the Philippines are being warned against kissing, rubbing and other hands-on veneration of statues in the run-up to Easter, due to high amounts of lead paint found on the icons.
As the predominantly Catholic country of 96 million marks Holy Week, the nonprofit EcoWaste Coalition is reporting levels of lead hundreds of times the legal limit on painted religious statues being sold across the country, particularly by street vendors.
No Wiping or Kissing
“We respect the practice of the Catholic faithful to kiss or touch religious icons to express their belief as well as to seek divine guidance and intercession,” Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, said in an announcement by the group Sunday (April 13), as the Catholic Church's holiest week of the year opened with Palm Sunday.
|Wikimedia Commons / Baptiste Marcel|
The third-largest Catholic country in the world, the Philippines is well known for its Holy Week rituals, including devotional crucifixions like this one during Easter 2006.
In December, the country's Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued a chemical control order (CCO) for lead and lead compounds that sets a threshold limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for lead in paints. That limit has has been in effect in the United States since 1978.
The Philippines has also established a phaseout period by 2016 for leaded decorative paints and 2019 for leaded industrial paints.
|Wikimedia Commons / Jasonianyap|
The EcoWaste Coalition urged the Catholic Church to use its influence with manufacturers to rid religious icons of lead paint. Pictured is Manila's Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
The EU-funded analysis examined 803 cans of paint representing 404 brands and found lead levels above 90 ppm in most of them. One in four cans had levels above 10,000 ppm, the report said.