EcoWaste Coalition warns about the use of lead contaminated paint brush in food preparations

Lead contaminated brush being used in food preparations. Photo by ecowastecoalition

AN Environment and public health watchdog yesterday warned the public from using paint brushes in grilling or making food preparations due to the lead contaminated paint in its handle.

The EcoWaste Coalition, in a report entitled “Get the Lead Out of Paint Brushes,” aired the warning after it discovered high levels of lead in non-food grade brushes used in food preparations.

“The use of paint brushes, which are non-food grade utensils, may pose a lead contamination risk, especially when the lead painted handle has started to crumble due to repeated use. The chalking, chipping or peeling lead paint on the handle of these brushes may get onto the sauce, butter, glaze or oil that is applied on food and into someone’s mouth,” explained EcoWaste Coalition Chemical Safety Campaigner Thony Dizon.

Meanwhile, Dr. Erle Castillo, toxicologist at Medical Center Manila and member of the Philippine Society for Clinical and Occupational Toxicology said exposure to lead is harmful to health as it could lead to poisoning.

“This raises the possibility for lead poisoning to occur due to the ingestion of lead contaminated food. While further study is required, food preparers are advised to err on the side of caution and only use food-grade basting brushes or mops. Prevention is better than cure, especially when you are dealing with toxic metals like lead, which has no safe threshold for exposure,” Castillo said.

The EcoWaste Coalition said do-it-yourself (DIY) mops made out of banana, lemon grass or pandan leaves can be made and used if food grade basting or pastry brushes are not affordable or available.

From 25-27 August 2018, the group purchased a total of 75 branded and generic paint brushes from 40 hardware stores, home improvement centers and other retailers in eight cities in Metro Manila (Caloocan, Makati, Manila, Pasay, Pasig, Quezon, San Juan, and Taguig).

The samples representing 58 brands and costing PhP10 to PhP164.75 each were screened for toxic metals, particularly lead, using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device. The XRF screening showed 52 of the 75 paint brushes or 69% with mostly yellow painted handles had high lead content exceeding the regulatory limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) as per Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order (A.O.) 2013-24, or the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.

Of the 52 lead-coated paint brushes, 41 had lead above 1,000 ppm, 23 had lead above 5,000 ppm and eight had lead above 10,000 ppm.

None of the 52 lead-decorated paint brushes provided lead warning on the product label. There was no precautionary statement on the label that such brushes should not be used for food preparations.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, the presence of lead on the painted handles of the analyzed paint brushes pointed to an obvious breach of the country’s landmark regulation banning lead in paints.

With the phase-out of lead-containing decorative paints, it would only be logical that painting implements such as brushes are also devoid of lead, the group said.

Aside from lead, the group said the paint brush samples also contained arsenic, chrome and mercury at above levels of concern.


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