Home is the safest environment we can provide our children with. But sometimes, due to lack of awareness, our home can expose our children to environmental hazards;
the least likely suspect being the paint we use to decorate our home. M&B investigates…
Festivals and the arrival of a newborn in the family call for a change in our surrounding. It is often noticed that families want to change the look and feel of their homes to welcome the new arrival. While we spend good amount of time selecting colour shades for indi-vidual rooms, we are most concerned about getting the baby’s room perfect.
Studies have shown that prolonged exposure to paints can cause health hazards for adults and children alike. Exposure to lead, a toxic ingredient in paint is known to cause damage to the brain and ner-vous system, behaviour and learning problems, such as hyperactivity, slowed growth, anemia, hearing problems and headaches in children. A research study conducted by New Delhi based environmental advocacy organisation Toxics Link and International POPs Elimina-tion Network has concluded that lead paint is a signi? cant source of lead poisoning.
Rajeev Betne, senior programme coordinator at Toxics Link explains, “Lead (Pb) is the most toxic ingredient the paints could have. Lead is a neurotoxin and it has been proved that there is no safe lead level in human blood/ body. From reduced IQ levels to internal organ failure could happen due to it. Children are more susceptible. Lead could come out of the household paint coatings during direct contact, refurbishment or event through paint dust.” However, in terms of bringing all paint manufactures under the purview of Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) to regulate and monitor the levels of toxic substances and ensure chemical safety is still a distant goal.
“Paints are chemicals and they could in? ict health. However, water based and lead free is considered safest. While there are standards on VOCs in different products, the enforcement of standards is not strict, majorly because BIS standards are largely non-mandatory,” he says. Betne also points to other toxic materials that can endanger health. “Besides lead, Volatile Organic Compounds are other toxic compounds often used in paints – for better performance and quick drying. They are organic compounds (having carbon in their mo-lecular structure) having the potential to quickly evaporate at even room temperature and remain in the form of vapour for an extended period of time,” he says.
The permissible level of VOC is 50 grams per litre. However, it has been found that certain paint manufactures are not following these standards. The VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short – and long term adverse health effects. It could range from normal irritation in the external organs to damaging internal organs such as the respiratory impairment, damage to liver and nervous system. Some are known to cause cancers. Children, espe-cially up to age six, are usually much more susceptible to toxins than adults. Staying in a freshly painted room or being present while the room is being painted with no proper ventilation can result in exposure to VOC. The pungent odour can cause re-spiratory problems, dif? culty in breathing, bronchial asthma and irritation to the eyes.
The reason for us being unaware of these toxins invading our home is due to lack of information. As Rajeev states, it’s a collective failure, especially in this part of the world. “There is a lack of proper understanding of the issue of chemicals and health amongst a large number of stake-holders, including the manufacturer and the policy makers. Hence there are several rea-sons: lack of appropriate information about the chemical toxicity, absence of adequate public information, lack of good regulation and implementation of them etc. And espe-cially in this part of the world, we are not a health conscious society,” he opines.
Sukhpreet Singh, general manager, market-ing and sales at Kansai Nerolac, however, believes that someone needs to address this issue. “Fortunately, as a brand, our thought and the company’s vision centres around the idea that it’s not about the beauti? cation of the walls but about better and healthy living. So, we actually were the ? rst company to talk about lead free paint. Though in our country, the government is not stipulating any regulation, we have taken steps to provide safe and healthy products to our consumers. What’s more, we have also eliminated the use of other heavy metals like arsenic, chromium and mercury. The ? nal and next logical step was to reduce VOC levels,” he af? rms.
Singh states, “It takes technical experts to ? nd substitutes to eliminate the use of toxins. Since about one and a half years, we are running all our advertising campaigns to encourage use of safe and healthier paint. We provide water based decorative paints which are healthier products as they contain zero VOC. All paint manufacturers should take responsible steps. There doesn’t have to be a regulation in place for them to act,” he insists.
Jotun India is another leading paint manu-facturer that promotes use of low VOC paints. Percy Jijina, Director – Decorative, Jotun India adds, “The global paint and coatings industry, in association with other environmental bodies, are doing their bit to promote a sustainable and greener environ-ment and have also awakened to the need for addressing health issues pertaining to toxic chemicals used in paint products. This awareness is being spread in India slowly and gradually, but is still at a very nascent stage. Eco-friendly paints have been gaining a lot of signi? cance world over as today’s consumers understand most components used in non-eco-friendly paints can cause health hazards. Paint companies in the country have to understand the signi? -cance of abiding with green norms with a bid to deliver eco-friendly products that are sustainable and have invested largely in research and development of the same. Regulatory reforms by environmental bod-ies, in association with the government, pertaining to low-VOC products will help promote low or zero VOC products and educate consumers,” he assures.
So dear mamma, next time you decide to decorate your home, know what harm the colour can do to you and your baby. Make sure that along with the right colour, you choose the right paint too! M&B
TAKE PREVENTIVE STEPS TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF YOUR HOME AND LOVED ONES:
• Read the logo of the paint.
• Lead free and low VOC paints are the best.
• Keep yourself and children away from the spot of refurbishment, painting.
• Go inside only when the coatings are dry.
• Traditional water based coatings are much safer.
• Asian Paints, Nerolac, ICI Dulux are lead free. They claim that VOC has been reduced in their products, especially waterbased ones. Paint manufacturing company – Shalimar paints are soon going to launch a low VOC range of paints.
Words: Poornima Nair Iyer