Public warned against using hardware brushes for food

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An environment group based in Quezon City warned the public against the use of paint brushes containing harmful chemicals that are used for basting meat while barbecuing and for other food applications.

Public warned against using hardware brushes for food

Thony Dizon, coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition Project Protect said that his group discovered that 22 of the 25 paint brushes from hardware stores that were analyzed contained elevated levels of lead.

With the use of an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the group found out that the handles on the painted wooden brushes has 17,400 parts per million (ppm) of lead which is way above the United States (US) standard of 90 ppm for lead in paint.

Subsequent market investigation by the group’s AlerToxic Patrol revealed that paint brushes are also being used in several food applications, prompting to group to make the warning.

“Our investigation shows that paint brushes are often used as basting brushes to a variety of street food such as pork and chicken barbecue, boiled corn on the cob, hotcake and native bibingka,” Dizon said.

“Paint brushes, especially those with handles coated in leaded paint, are not food-safe and should not be used for basting or greasing food,” he added.

“The leaded paint will, sooner or later, chip off and get mixed with the basting sauce or with the butter or margarine and that’s not good for health,” he explained.

Toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center agreed saying that “strictly speaking, paint brushes are not meant to be in contact with food.”

“As a precaution against potential contamination, food preparers and sellers should use suitable food contact materials that are clean, hygienic and free of lead and other toxins,” said Antonio, who is also the Vice-President of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology.

The EcoWaste Coalition bought the paint brushes, representing 14 brands costing P12 to P102 each, from 12 hardware and home improvement stores at the Araneta Commercial Center and adjacent places in Cubao, Quezon City.

Only 3 paint brushes (Hi Tech with black plastic handle, Mansion with wooden handle in natural varnish and Stanley with wooden handle in brown varnish) had low or non-detectable levels of lead.

The top 10 samples that registered with the highest levels of lead at their yellow painted handles were Hi Tech (3”), 17,400 ppm; Lotus (2.5”), 16,500 ppm; Camel (2”), 12,800 ppm; Panclub (1 ½), 12,700 ppm; Lotus (1”), 12,600 ppm; Croco (2”), 10,800 ppm; no brand name (3”), 9214 ppm; Camel (3/4”), 8,931 ppm; Butterfly (2”), 6,181 ppm; and Lotus (1”, brown handle), 5,027 ppm.

Also, traces of arsenic (highest: 2,104 ppm), chromium (highest: 11,200 ppm) and mercury (highest: 81 ppm) were found in most of the samples.

Dizon said that none of the samples had precautionary labels to notify consumers about lead and other chemicals of concern on the paint brushes.

The group said information on chemicals in a product with matching precautionary warning is essential to guide consumers in making informed choices and in preventing risks of exposure for users and non-users alike.

EcoWaste Coalition in separate letters to the hardware stores suggested that they either voluntarily remove the leaded paint brushes off the shelves or post a visible warning that will inform consumers about the lead content of such articles.

The hardware stores were also urged to require their paint brush suppliers to manufacture lead-free, non-toxic brushes.

The group further suggested that hardware stores should provide a warning sign next to the leaded paint brushes that says “not safe for basting food” – or its equivalent in local language – to prevent contamination during food preparation.--Source: Manila Bulletin




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