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

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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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Forex crisis will lead to power cuts, warns Ranil

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Udaya pooh-poohs warning

By Saman indrajith

UNP leader and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday told Parliament that the country would face power cuts soon if the government did not resolve the foreign exchange crisis urgently.

Participating in the third reading debate on Budget 2022, the UNP leader said the forex issue could result in Sri Lanka running out of money to import fuel.

Wickremesinghe called on the government to make a statement on the current situation.

The UNP leader pointed out that Sri Lanka had only Rs. 1.5 billion in foreign reserves, out of which Rs. 300 million were gold reserves, which meant only Rs. 1.2 billion was the liquid amount in foreign reserves.

The former PM said the low foreign reserves could lead to the country facing power issues in the future as there would be no funds left for fuel imports. However, the Minister of Power, Udaya Gammanpila, assured that Sri Lanka had enough fuel stocks.

The Minister said it was reasonable for people to assume that there would be power cuts in the future due to the foreign exchange crisis.

Reiterating that Sri Lanka had necessary fuel stocks, Minister Gammanpila said the fuel in hand was sufficient for the next 40 days.

Although the Sapugaskanda Oil refinery had been closed for 50 days, measures would be taken to resume operations at an early date, the Minister added, assuring that the foreign exchange crisis would not result in power cuts.

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State Minister Ranasinghe assures farmers using organic fertiliser compensation in event of losses

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Provincial Councils and Local Government State Minister Roshan Ranasinghe speaking at a meeting held at the auditorium of the Polonnaruwa District Secretariat yesterday

Provincial Councils and Local Government State Minister Roshan Ranasinghe yesterday assured that the government would compensate any paddy farmer who suffered losses due to adopting organic fertiliser.

Speaking at a meeting held at the auditorium of the Polonnaruwa District Secretariat, the Minister said that even if the government had not proposed to allocate funds in the Budget proposals for possible losses to paddy farmers using organic fertiliser, funds would be obtained from a supplementary estimate for the purpose.

Ranasinghe said that it was wrong to state that the government shifted from chemical to organic fertiliser abruptly. The government had promised to do so in its election manifesto and people had approved it by giving a two-third majority of votes for that. The UNP too had planned to adopt organic fertilisers in place of chemical fertilisers some 30 years back.

The State Minister said that during the past 30 years all the governments had spent billions of rupees to increase awareness of organic fertilisers among officials and the general public. In addition, there had been numerous projects introduced with the assistance of the World Bank to promote organic cultivation in the country.

Minister Ranasinghe said that there were chemical fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides and there was information that some traders sell them at exorbitant prices. The government would get the Consumer Affairs Authority and police to implement the law against the black marketers.

He said that some farmers had raised concern that nano-nitrogen fertiliser would be washed away owing to the heavy rains, but the government would supply that fertiliser again as it was promised by State Minister of Organic Fertilizer Sashindra Rajapaksa.

The meeting was attended by ministry officials and representatives of the farmers’ associations in the Polonnaruwa District.

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Arjuna quits UNP

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World Cup winning captain and former minister Arjuna Ranatunga yesterday quit the UNP over its failure to get its act together

Ranatunga has communicated his decision to leave the UNP to the Leader, Secretary, Deputy Leader, and the Assistant Leader of the UNP.

Ranatunga said, in a letter to the UNP leadership, that he decided to join the United National Front ahead of the 2015 presidential election to make a change for the common good.

He has said as the first step towards that objective he contested the 2015 general election and secured the highest number of votes from the Gampaha District.

Ranatunga said that when many left the party in 2020, he remained with the UNP in order to protect it.

He said in 2020 the UNP suffered a massive loss, “and what is required is to prepare a programme to overcome the present and future challenges”.

“However, as there seems to be no such preparation there appears to be no purpose in remaining with the party”, Ranatunga said.

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