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Sunday, 2 February 2014

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Excessive lead paints, a health hazard for children

The re-opening of schools and painting classrooms and school furniture to create a conducive environment for new students has exposed them to health risks with a lasting effect.

"Lead is a toxin. Exposing young children to paints with lead can damage their health for life", said Head of Toxicology Unit, Dr. Waruna Gunathilaka.

"Over 50 percent of samples tested had exceeded the limits set by the Consumer Affairs Authority, as the minimum level should be 600 parts per million (ppn)" said Shalani Rubesinghe, an Environmental Officer of the Centre for Environment Justice which carried out an independent study recently on "Lead in Asian paints."

Children from grades 1-5 are more vulnerable. At this stage a child's brain undergoes rapid growth development and differentiation. Lead, a developmental toxin inhibits development. Chronic and low level exposure to lead from early childhood could retard the child's brain maturation," Dr Gunathilaka said.

The most common routes for this exposure were hand to mouth and through the lungs (respiratory system). When a child puts his or her finger into the mouth after touching a lead surface or inhales dust particles from walls painted with lead, he is vulnerable to lead poisoning, he said.

Rubesinghe cautioned parents about the deadly effects of brightly coloured enamel paints. "As in the case of red, green, orange and yellow indoor paints, enamel paints in these colours used in toys and cots are also likely to have a high lead content. White is the best choice", she said.

She said lead was introduced in higher levels because it helped the painted surface to dry quickly and evenly and also avoided rust. "Look for the labels that say 'Child safe' or 'Un-leaded. "Buy the most recent paints (after 2013) as they are likely to be free of lead. There are plenty out there, just look for them", she said.

 

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