THAILAND - Most paint products, including those touting to be lead free, contain more lead than the standard set by the Thai Industrial Standards Institute (TISI).
Lead exposure is deemed harmful to health and, in some cases, might cause lifelong damage to the human brain.
"Lead concentration in as many as 40 per cent of the paint products in the market have been found to be exceeding the standard level by more than 100 times," Walaiporn Mooksuwan said yesterday, citing information from her research.
Covering 120 samples of paint from 68 brands, the research is a part of the Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project conducted by the Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand (EARTH) Foundation, of which Walaiporn is deputy director.
The findings were released at a seminar at Chulalongkorn University.
According to the study, the TISI standard requires that paint products have no more than 100 parts per million (PPM) of lead.
"But 79 per cent of the products tested exceed that level, and some 40 per cent of the products have more than 10,000ppm of lead. Some of the products with the lead-free label are also in this group," Walaiporn said.
She added that the highest lead concentration found in a product was 95,000ppm, while the lowest was 9ppm.
She said her research showed that only 15 paint manufacturers appeared to have abided by the TISI standard.
The current TISI standard for lead concentration in paint products was put in effect in 2010. This is a tougher version of the old standard, which allowed lead concentration of up to 600ppm. Since the TISI standard is not a law, entrepreneurs are free to comply with it on a voluntary basis.
The foundation's director Penchom sae Tang said yesterday that this standard should become legally binding.
"Otherwise, the consumers will never know which products are really safe," she said.
Though the Cabinet has already approved the National Economic and Social Advisory Council's proposal that the lead standard for paint products become a legal rule, it remains to be seen when the rule will take effect.
Penchom said she was most worried about young children because lead could impair their brain development, adding that the chemical is believed to affect 600,000 children each year.
"Lead is also harmful for adults," she said.
The Office of the Consumer Protection Board is preparing to include a lead warning on the label of paint products.