Chinese paint exceeds legal lead limits.

Dec 12, 2008

Lin GZ, RF Peng, Q Chen, ZG Wu, and L Du. 2008. Lead in housing paints: An exposure source still not taken seriously for children lead poisoning in China. Environmental Research doi:10.1016/j.envres.2008.09.003.

Synopsis by Kim Harley, Ph.D.

A study of new, oil-based paints sold in Chinese retail stores finds that more than half have lead levels above the government's standards.

Chinese regulatory limits were first placed on lead in paint in 1986 and more stringent standards were phased in between 2001 and 2003.

Despite these regulations,  55% of paints tested in this study exceeded the Chinese standard of 90 parts per million (ppm) of soluble lead. Fifty percent of paints also exceeded the US standard of 600 ppm of total lead, with 24% of samples containing more than 5,000 ppm of total lead.

The national brands were more likely than local brands to exceed the lead limits. High levels were most common in yellow, green, and red paints, with 100% of the yellows and greens exceeding 600 ppm of total lead.

Lead affects the brain and cardiovascular system. Childhood exposure to the metal is associated with lower IQ and increased behavior problems.

Lead paint is a major source of lead poisoning in the U.S., where 1.6% of children have elevated blood lead levels. In contrast, more than 10% of Chinese children have elevated blood lead levels.

Researchers in Guangzhou, one of China’s largest and most prosperous cities, bought different colored paint from retail stores in and around the city. They sampled 58 paints from 12 different manufacturers.

Lead was traditionally used as an additive in paint to improve adherence to surfaces and create a hard, shiny finish.