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ISLAMABAD: Out of 58 brands of paints used in homes across the country, 60pc were found to contain more than the recommended 90 particles per million (PPM) of lead, according to a report launched by an international organisation, IPEN on Tuesday.

“Of the paints sampled, 24 have dangerously high lead concentrations of above 10,000 PPM. The most worrying is a yellow paint the label of which said ‘lead free’ but had more than 110,000 PPM of lead,” said one of the authors of the report, Dr Imran Saqib Khalid.

The report is titled ‘Lead in Solvent Based Paints for Home Use in Pakistan’ and was compiled in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

During the research process, 58 samples of paints were sent to a laboratory in USA for testing.

Dr Khalid, who is a research fellow at SDPI, said only 23 of the 58 paints tested contained less than 90 PPM of lead.

According to the report, 58 paint samples were sent to a laboratory in the United States for testing

“According to the WHO, lead does not contribute anything to the human body and is responsible for 0.6pc of global diseases. Paints which have lead are very dangerous as they mix in dust and enter the human body with the air they breathe,” he said.

“Lead is very dangerous for children and pregnant women and can cause brain damage and death. It can lead to low IQ levels in children, can increase the risk of hearing impairment and other problems such as memory loss and lack of concentration,” he said.

Dr Khalid suggested putting a ban on lead based paints and raising awareness so people can insist on lead free paints.

Assistant professor in the Environmental Sciences Department of the Fatima Jinnah Women University, Dr Sofia Khalid said lead poses a threat to human health.

“Some of my students researched into heavy metal contamination and found that lead is also being used in cosmetics. Lead can also be found in drinking water and also vegetables because land is irrigated with industrial waste water,” she said.

“Unfortunately, we do not have any data on how many children are suffering due to lead consumption and lots of resources are required for researching into this,” she said.

Pak-Environmental Protection Authority Director General Farzana Shah said there is no awareness about lead and its affect on health.

“Because of lead, the level of haemoglobin is reduced in the body and it is also deposited in the bones. People can be ill because of lead consumption and not know why they are sick,” she said.

Lead free petroleum is now being sold across the country, she said, and that efforts for the supply of lead free water now need to be made.

“This report should be shared with university in order to raise awareness,” Ms Shah said.

Dr Mehmood Khawaja, who has been looking into issues related to lead consumption for decades and is currently affiliated with SDPI, said there is first the need for understanding why lead is used in paints.

“It is used because it helps dry paints faster which results in a smooth layer and the paint also becomes corrosion resistant,” he said.

When asked, he said it was decided not to mention the names of the companies which use excessive amounts of lead in paints as SDPI is only a research organisation.

Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2017