Ecowaste Coalition finds toxic lead in these paint products that are supposedly lead-free.

Consumers, beware. “Lead-free” paints can still contain lead, warns Philippines toxics watchdog group Ecowaste Coalition in a recent press release.

In its latest tests, the group detected illegal levels of lead on 7 colours of an imported spray paint brand despite the “no Pb” icon on the can (Pb is the symbol for lead from the Latin word, plumbum).

These new versions of Korona Spray Paint from China contain lead above the legal limit of 90 parts per million.

The implicated products were new “made in China” Korona Spray Paints, previously marked “made in Thailand”. Although the product’s label and packaging have changed, the newly repackaged paints sold in the Philippines were still found to be non-compliant with the regulation banning lead in excess of 90 parts per million (ppm) in all paints, spray paints and aerosol paints.

The following colours of the new China-made Korona Spray Paints were found to contain lead above the legal limit: lemon yellow (100,000 ppm), yellow (100,000 ppm), orange (63,500 ppm), grass green (54,360 ppm), signal red (211 ppm), violet (169 ppm), and rose pink (124 ppm).

Previously the Coalition had found these old Korona Spray Paints from Thailand to be contaminated with lead: yellow (64,800 ppm), orange (50,900 ppm), violet (1,200 ppm), signal red (1,110 ppm) and rose pink (428 ppm).

Korona Spray Paint in new packaging remains contaminated with lead, a toxic chemical banned in paint manufacturing.

The new China-made Korona Spray Paints, which are also sold online, were manufactured in 2023 and 2024 and now sport a bigger product logo in front and have coloured caps or lids to differentiate them from the old ones, the group observes.

The old Thailand-made yellow Korona Spray Paint (left) compared with the new China-made product (right).

The previous “made in Thailand” Korona Spray Paints, manufactured in 2021, had a smaller product logo in front and all-black caps or lids regardless of the paint colour.

The body of the can is black for both the old and new Korona Spray Paints, on which is written some product information in English, Japanese and Thai.

Lead chromates (the most common pigments used in producing lead-based paints) are hazardous chemicals and should be listed as such in accordance with the provisions of the Rotterdam Convention’s Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure, according to the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN).

According to experts, lead paint is one of the most widespread sources of lead exposure among children. Lead exposure can harm human health and even small amounts can damage a child’s neurological development, causing learning difficulties, low IQ and behavioural problems.

“It also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage. Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight,” says the World Health Organisation, noting that “there is no permissible level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects”.