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Paints pose danger to health, environment,warn researchers

The Hindu, Sunday, January 1, 2006
Correspondent : Staff Reporter
`Toxic concoction of various metals, compounds are used as pigments or additives'
NEW DELHI: Long gone in developed countries, lead-based paints continue to be part of the market in India. And with the country having little by way of legislation or regulation of lead or other contaminations in paint, this multi-crore industry continues to pose a danger to health and environment, warn researchers.
In India, 30 per cent of the paints market (Rs. 644.2 crores) serves the industrial sector, while the remaining 70 per cent (Rs. 1,503.3 crores) is aimed at the decorative sector -- and paints, claim researchers, have a toxic concoction of various metals and compounds used as pigments or additives. These include organic solvents, cadmium, chromium, mercury and lead.
"Organic solvents are known to emit volatile organic compounds into their immediate environment. We are so exposed to the paints and their ill-effects that a survey indicated that over 51 per cent children below the age of 12 years living in major urban areas of India have elevated levels of blood lead. The hard fact is that no level of lead in blood is safe or normal. Exposure to extremely small amounts of lead can also have long-term effects, while causing no distinctive symptoms at the same time,'' says Toxics Link programme officer Shoba Vishnuvardhana speaking about a countrywide survey carried out about the ill-effects of paints and lack of regulation in the industry.
What hits the country hardest is the fact that unlike in developed countries developing countries have been slow to establish any substantive measures to tackle the problem.