ELAW partner Hemantha Withanage sent fabulous news this week:

Children in Sri Lanka will be protected from toxic lead.  Sri Lanka’s Consumer Affairs Authority has enacted new, stringent standards limiting the amount of lead in paint used in children’s toys.

“This regulation will save the lives of thousands of children yet to be born,” says Hemantha, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Justice.  “We received technical information and guidance from ELAW’s Dr.  Mark Chernaik about the hazards of lead and the need for strict standards.  He also helped us find a U.S.  expert who provided an affidavit in support of our case in the Supreme Court.”

Under the old standards, paint sold in Sri Lanka can have as much as 130,000 parts per million of lead-containing additives – that’s more than 200 times the amount of lead allowed in U.S.  paint!  The new Sri Lankan standard matches the standards in the U.S., establishes a system for testing paints prior to sale to consumers, and includes safe standards for paint on toys and other children’s accessories.

Hemantha announced the victory to the ELAW network and congratulations arrived immediately from ELAW partners in Malaysia, England, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Tanzania.

See more information in CEJ’s press release.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director


12th October 2011

The Consumer Affairs Authority has been published the standards for lead in Paints as a responding to the Fundamental Rights application filed by the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) in the Supreme Court , Sri Lanka, on 14th February 2011 seeking the Consumer Affairs Authority and others to formulate suitable regulations to compel the manufacturers and distributors to comply with the international standards relating to the presence of Lead in paints considering the serious health impacts caused by adding lead to decorative paints.

Secretary-Ministry of Co-operatives and Internal Trade, The Director General-Consumer Affairs Authority, Consumer Affairs Authority, Secretary-Ministry of Health, Secretary-Ministry of Science and Technology, Sri Lanka Standards Institution, Central Environmental Authority, and The Hon.  Attorney General have sited as the Respondents.

As pleaded, Consumer Affairs Authority has published a Government Gazette Extra Ordinary No 1725/30 on 30th of September 2011 regulating permissible maximum lead content on the following paints and accessories shall come into effect from 01st January, 2013.

The Gazette states that “no Manufacturer, Importer, Packer, Distributor or Trader shall manufacture, import and use or distribute, pack, store or sell or display for sale, expose for sale or offer for sale, wholesale or retail any paints unless such paints shall conform to the corresponding Total Lead Content given hereunder as specified by the Sri Lanka Standard Institution for such paints”.

Permissible maximum lead content

Paints for Toys and Accessories for Children (soluble in HCI acid) 90 mg/kg
Enamel Paints 600 mg/kg
Emulsion Paints for Exterior use 90 mg/kg
Emulsion Paints for Interior use 90 mg/kg
Floor Paints 600 mg/kg

Lead in paints is highly toxics to the human, especially to the children below 8 years.  It has impacts on over 40 million children worldwide, over 97 percent of who live in developing countries.  In 2002, the United Nations sponsored World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) committed to take actions to protect human health from exposure to lead.  Paragraph 57 of the Plan of Implementation of the WSSD states: “Phase out lead in lead-based paints and in other sources of human exposure, work to prevent, in particular, children’s exposure to lead and strengthen monitoring and surveillance efforts and the treatment of lead poisoning.”

The global scientific study “Lead in New Decorative Paints” carried out by CEJ and Toxics Link in collaboration with International POPs Elimination Network(IPEN) found that one Sri Lankan Enamel Paint sample contained 137,325 ppm lead which is 228 times greater than 600 ppm, the level indicated in the recent gazette.  Other tested enamel samples contained high levels such as 133463, 55237, 21116, 20904 ppm etc.

CEJ Executive Director, Hemantha Withanage said “this paint standards is a greater achievement of the consumers who gets contaminate every minute due to unknown toxics in the consumer products such as decorative paints at home, in the school or in the work place”.

Centre for Environmental Justice
20A, Kuruppu Road, Colombo 08, Sri Lanka.

For further details contact:-

Mr.  Hemantha Withanage
Executive Director

Ms.  Nilmal Wickramasinghe
Legal Officer