• Tuesday, December 31, 2013

THE SILENT SCROUGE

Exposing Lead-based paint

By Osama Rahman
Photo courtesy: Berger Paints Bangladesh Limited
Source: Photo courtesy: Berger Paints Bangladesh Limited

For far too long, many among us have welcomed a silent, yet effective killer, in our homes with open arms. WHO estimates this insidious element to be responsible for over 600,000 new cases of intellectual disabilities in children every year. The global death toll stands currently at 143,000. The numbers are startling but more so is the fact that despite the abundance of such grave statistics, the problem continues to be overlooked. Lead based paint, the contributor of the above statistics, continues to be extensively used in Bangladesh. With no legal obstruction, the presence in lead based paint in our homes continues unabated. Industry leader and pioneer, Berger Paints has finally started an initiative to change the dismal scenario.
Berger has recently kicked off the Berger Lead Free project by introducing their line of lead free paint, coupled with campaigns aimed to raise awareness about the issue. During their research, Berger came upon the numerous harmful effects of lead based paint. It was found that lead affected almost every organ in the body, regardless of age or sex. High concentration of lead was seen to result in kidney failure, reproductive problems, nerve disorders, slowed growth, development problems and much more. Although these grim realities have been accepted and acted upon by countries in the developed world, Bangladesh has been lagging behind. No government ordinance has been passed to stop the use of lead based paint. As industry leaders and pioneers in their field, Berger has taken it upon themselves to bring the issue to the fore.
The journey hasn't been easy. Despite starting two years ago, Berger withheld their campaign fearing that shops would still have lead containing Berger paint in their inventory. However, after two years, having ensured every further Berger product is free of lead, the campaign is about to start. Berger's products are now all below 90 parts per million(PPM) in lead content which is the acceptable limit. This limit has been deemed safe by most regulatory bodies such as those in USA and Europe. Meeting such stringent requirements has come at a cost. High lead content helps keep prices down and thus Berger has had to consider their cost in terms of pricing strategy. They have also included the "lead-free" label in all their products so as to keep the customer informed. These are merely the initial step.
Officials at Berger have also identified that to fully eradicate the use of lead-based paint, those working closest with it need to be made aware. A workshop has been planned for commercial house-painters, where the negative side of lead based paint will be highlighted. Furthermore, since house-painters come into most contact with the chemical, they are the ones that need to be educated on the matter first. The aim is that once the house-painters become aware of the dangers, they will promote the use of lead free paint. This way the consumers can also be coaxed into following the practice. Berger also hopes that the awareness campaign can help change the laws. Currently, despite the internationally acceptable levels of lead considered to be 90 PPM, in Bangladesh the limit stands at 600 PPM for both enamel and floor paint. This is of course much too high and is extensively harmful.
The dangers of lead based paints are all well documented. As lead based paint on the walls in our homes start to crack, they chip away and disperse as dust into the very air we breathe. The lead cannot be seen, smelt or tasted but enters our body through inhalation or through our hands, where it may land and be consumed unknowingly. The effects then can be seen steadily and it's at times too late to reverse the results. Berger paint has taken a strong step to curb the use of lead based paint and we can only hope that their endeavour pays off. It's time we finally expose this hidden assassin and shun it from the place we consider the safest; our very own homes.

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last modified: 8:03 pm Tuesday, December 31, 2013

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