Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Certain colours make life dull by acting on the nervous system

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Life would indeed be dull if there were no colours. But scientists argue that certain colours make life dull by acting on the nervous system.

Certain colours of enamel paints currently available in India contain high levels of lead, which damage the central nervous system, particularly in children and pregnant women. So the next time you plan to paint your house, be choosy about the colours.

According to a joint study by 10 international research organisations including the Bengaluru-based National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning, Indian paints on an average contain 33,000 ppm of lead as against the international permissible levels of 600 ppm. Interestingly the percentage of lead differ in different colours with white enamel paints having 1330 ppm, making it the safe bet, though it is more than twice the permissible levels.

"Although lead poisoning of children is widely recognised as a major public health problem in many parts of the world, very little attention has been given in many countries to the role of leaded paints. The colour found to have the lowest lead concentrations was white and the colours found to have the highest concentrations are yellow and orange, followed closely by green and red," Dr Venkatesh Thuppil, one of the members of the research team, told this correspondent.

Dr Venkatesh, who is popularly known as the "lead man of India" for his pioneering efforts in the introduction of lead-free petrol in the country, pointed out that the concentration of most of the samples was greater than or equal to the level of 600 ppm, the current limit for new paint in a number of countries. Dr Venkatesh along with Dr CS Clark, who led the research team, suggested that the lead levels should not cross 90 ppm if the health of people were to be protected from heavy metal poisoning.

According to the study, yellow paint has the highest lead levels of 85,000 ppm (dry weight), followed by orange with 79,700 ppm, red 30,600 ppm, green with 28,200 ppm, black 8050, blue 4610, and white 1330 ppm.

The study noted that 73 per cent of paint brands tested from 12 countries fail to comply with the standard limits. Almost half of the world population live in these countries which include India and China. About 70 per cent of the brands had at least one sample exceeding 10,000 ppm.

"A global ban on lead-based paint is drastically needed to protect more than three billion people who may be exposed in the countries allowing distribution of lead-containing paints," the scientists noted.

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