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14 percent of paints sold here contain lead in excess of permitted limits



By Ifham Nizam

A study has revealed that 14% of paints tested in the country contain lead in excess of 90 ppm (the applicable standard in India, Nepal, the U.S., Canada and many other countries).

The report released yesterday by the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ), in association with the US based Occupational Knowledge (OK) International, tests were conducted on 37 paint products purchased from stores and online from 25 different manufacturers.

Samples of lacquer often used on children’s toys, murals and furniture in preschools, contained lead exceeding 90 ppm, the maximum allowed under existing regulations (Gazette Extra Ordinary No. 1725/30 on 30th September 2011). One anti-corrosive paint also contains lead in excess of standard of 600 ppm, according to Environmental Scientist Hemantha Withanage.

CEJ Executive Director Dilena Pathragoda said: “Our research shows that 16 out of 20 products belonging to SMEs have lead levels below 90 ppm. However, it is high time stringent standards standards were introduced for Sri Lankan paints and we urge the regulatory bodies to reduce the maximum permissible Lead level to 90 ppm in all types of paints, coatings, ceramic glazes, and inks.”

CEJ reminds all parents, teachers and caregivers to choose Lead Safe Paints for houses, preschools and the childcare facilities. They are advised to choose unpainted wooden or cloth toys when lead safety is not guaranteed.

“Anti-corrosive paint, sold in small containers in stores are often applied on window grills and outdoor railings in preschools, childcare facilities and households in Sri Lanka. As it deteriorates, it can easily contaminate the dust in households and preschools. Small children under six years that crawl and play on the floor can easily get exposed to lead in dust” said Chalani Rubesinghe, Project planning and management Officer, CEJ.

Lead is a toxic heavy metal that can cause permanent and irreversible brain damage in children. Even at low levels of exposure children experience reduced intelligence and school performance, reduced attention span, impaired learning ability and behavioural problems. In adults lead effects many systems and is associated with deaths from increased blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

“CEJ’s campaign to eliminate lead in paint has been a tremendous success, but the current report shows that additional regulation and enforcement is needed to protect the public” said Perry Gottesfeld, Executive Director, Occupational Knowledge (OK) International, USA. “Sri Lanka should ban the production, import, export, and use of lead chromate in line with requirements in the European Union.”

He told The Island that Sri Lanka should go all out to impose the 90 PPM limit.

On account of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action 2021, in association with IPEN this week, the CEJ reminds the public to select lead-safe paints.

The CEJ has played a leading role in bringing mandatory standards for Lead concentration in paint. The Consumer Affairs Authority set these limits as a result of the case filed by CEJ in 2011 based on research.

Accordingly, enamel and floor paints can have only 600 ppm of lead while the limit is 90 ppm for emulsion and paints used on children’s products, effected from 1st January 2013. It is also mandatory to declare on the label that the paint is lead safe.

Of the paints purchased only 24% of the samples had a required label indicating lead content as per the current standard (Gazette Notification No. 1985/ 38, dated 23rd September 2016).

The sample with the highest lead level (700 ppm) was labelled as lead safe (“Pb safe”) and another lacquer product with lead in excess of 90 ppm, was labelled “Pb free”.

The CEJ has called upon the Sri Lankan Consumer Affairs Authority to improve the monitoring of labeling practices in the paint market.

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President to honour senior journalist Edmond Ranasinghe tomorrow




The tribute ceremony for senior journalist Edmund Ranasinghe, the founding editor and editorial director of the ‘Divaina’ newspaper and one of Sri Lanka’s most esteemed journalists, is scheduled for tomorrow (03rd October) at 3:00 pm at the Presidential Secretariat. President Ranil Wickremesinghe will preside over this event, which marks the initiation of a program conceptualized by the President to honour senior journalists who have made significant contributions to journalism in the country.

In appreciation of Mr. Ranasinghe’s seven decades of dedicated work in the media, a book titled ‘Edmond’s Newspaper Revolution,’ compiled by the 93-year-old journalist himself, will be published.

The keynote speech at this tribute ceremony will be delivered by Mr. Upali Tennakoon, the former Editor-In-Chief of the Island and Rivira newspapers, currently residing in the United States of America.

Mr. Edmond Ranasinghe embarked on his media career as a journalist at the Lake House, ‘Daily News’ newspaper in 1952. In 1973, while serving as the News Editor and holding the title of Deputy Editor, he resigned from his position in protest of the government’s takeover of the Lake House.

In 1977, Mr. Ranasinghe was reappointed as the Editor of ‘Dinamina’ by invitation from Lake House and later he also took on the role of Editor at Silumina.

In 1981, he became the founding Editor of the ‘Divaina’ newspaper, revolutionizing journalism in Sri Lanka and elevating it to unprecedented popularity in a short span of time. In 2016, at the age of 86, Mr. Ranasinghe once again assumed the role of Editor at ‘Silumina,’ further showcasing his enduring commitment to journalism.

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Navy deploy flood relief teams in Matara district




The Sri Lanka Navy has deployed relief teams to assist people affected by the flooding in the Akuressa, Athuraliya, Thawalama, and Kamburupitiya areas of Matara district, caused by the overflowing of the Nilwala river and Kiramba-Ara,

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Corrupt elements use Parliament, Finance Ministry to evade taxes



Economic Oversight Committee Chief makes shocking allegation

Complicity of official owning Las Vegas house exposed

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage, MP, yesterday (01), said influential corrupt elements within the state revenue collection apparatus had with the help of the Finance Ministry brought in amendments to relevant laws to stifle the revenue collection process. Their actions had taken a heavy toll on the state coffers.

The government had created a system that allowed four appeals against Inland Revenue Department tax estimates, MP Aluthgamage explained, alleging that interested parties abused the parliamentary process.

The former Minister said so in response to the queries raised by The Island about his recent declaration at the Presidential Media Centre (PMC) that a special unit was required to monitor Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Departments.

Asked whether he had sought to highlight the failure on the part of parliamentary watchdog committees, the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises), the COPF (Committee on Public Finance) and the COPA (Committee on Public Accounts), relevant ministerial consultative committees as well as the Auditor General to carry out their duties and functions properly, Aluthgamage said the fact that as much as Rs. 904 bn had not been collected as taxes over the past 15 years proved that the existing systems were flawed.

MP Aluthgamage said: “In fact, the government, at the expense of the national economy created a system for the benefit of tax dodgers. Parliament is responsible for this situation. Four appeals are not allowed in any part of the world. But the Finance Ministry and Parliament created systems that can be manipulated because the corrupt elements receive the backing of the powers that be.”

Responding to another question, MP Aluthgamage said those who had been tasked with revenue collection seemed to have been hand in glove with tax dodgers.

Aluthgamage said his committee had recently requested President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who also holds the Finance portfolio, to reduce the number of tax appeals from four to two.

MP Aluthgamage said that he had realised the urgent need for a fresh and thorough inquiry into state finance following the declaration of bankruptcy in May 2022 and the ouster of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa two months later.

The former Minister said that he wouldn’t hesitate to admit that corrupt systems remained in place regardless of the change of government in July last year. “A few months ago, a person known to me was asked to pay Rs 100 mn as tax. He got in touch with a senior revenue official, paid him Rs 10 mn and got the matter settled. When I brought this to the notice of the relevant department head, the official concerned simply said that particular officer often did so.

“Obviously regardless of the change of government and the fact that the country is begging for IMF assistance, corruption is rampant,” MP Aluthgamage said, noting that though the country was bankrupt and experienced continuing turmoil the vast majority of those who were tasked with revenue collection lived cushy lives. The Oversight Committee Chairman disclosed that one of the key Inland Revenue officials owned properties in Las Vegas, whereas another top official had walked free after being caught with heroin.

Alleging that some of those holding key positions in the revenue collection set-up collaborated with tax dodgers, the MP said that similarly the Excise Department and liquor manufacturers perpetrated massive tax frauds. Responding to another query, MP Aluthgamage emphasised that actually the increase in the price of liquor had helped certain liquor manufacturers.

Appreciating the interventions made by MP Patali Champika Ranawaka to pressure the Excise Department to do its job, MP Aluthgamage said that routine checks had revealed the widespread use of fake security tax stamps affixed to bottles of liquor countrywide. The Excise Department bosses should be held accountable for this situation as liquor manufacturers could not engage in such massive frauds without the blessings of the department.

Referring to a delay in agreement with the IMF over the releasing of the second tranche of USD 2.9 bn Extended Fund Facility (EFF), MP Aluthgamage said that the flaws in the revenue collection process, too, had contributed to the situation. The MP alleged the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Departments continued to undermine the revenue collection. “They always come up with lame excuses to thwart efforts to streamline tax collection,” he said.

Alleging that frauds involving the Excise Department and liquor manufacturers caused 40 percent loss in revenue, MP Aluthgamage alleged that a significant amount of that money ended up with Excise Department personnel at all levels. “This is the sad truth,” the ex-Minister said.

According to him, the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise were required to collect Rs. 1,667 bn, Rs 1,217 bn and Rs 217 bn, respectively, this year.  But so far this year, they had collected only Rs 956 bn, Rs 578 bn and Rs 109 bn, respectively, MP Aluthgamage said.

MP Aluthgamage said that he had been targeted by Inland Revenue after he raised the issues at hand publicly. “I was investigated,” the MP said, adding his efforts couldn’t be derailed by such efforts.

MP Aluthgamage said that he had urged President Wickremesinghe to take remedial measures as soon as possible. “Our continuous failure to act even after the declaration of bankruptcy is unacceptable.”

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