Responsible business could protect 33 million Indonesian children

17 March 2022, Jakarta, Indonesia - Bright color paints with high lead content are found in various children's facilities and open spaces for the public. In a recent study, more than 70% of paint samples had lead concentrations above 90 ppm, a globally agreed threshold. The highest lead concentration from the 2021 survey is 150,000 ppm; WHO and UNEP's safe limit is 90 ppm. Countries participating in the SAICM forum agreed to phase out lead paint by 2020.

Currently, several paint companies in Indonesia have produced lead-free decorative paints, including Mowilex, AkzoNobel, Rajawali Hiyoto, Sigma Utama, Bital Asia, Pacific Paint, Indaco Warna Dunia, and Jotun. Unfortunately, major market-leading companies such as Propan, Nippon Paint/NIPSEA, and Avia Avian, Asian Paints did not respond to the initial Nexus3, ICEL, and CRPG discussion invitations in December 2021 and today at Pullman Hotel Jakarta to push for a commitment to lead-free paint production by 2023.

“It is very disappointing that several large and multinational companies operating in Indonesia apply double standards. For the sake of profit, they produce paint with high levels of lead even though in their home country they only produce lead-free paint,” said Yuyun Ismawati, from the Nexus3 Foundation. “Even the market leader in Indonesia, which recently sold its shares to the public for USD 771 million, is still relying on lead paint to make a profit. The shares of polluting companies should not be allowed to go public,” added Yuyun firmly.

A 2013 study published by the United States National Institute of Health (NIH) estimated the economic cost of childhood lead exposure in Indonesia at around USD 37.9 billion per year. In other words, Indonesia's GDP per year will be 3.35% higher if there is no lead paint. The estimated cumulative loss of 16 million IQ points is attributed to lead paint in Indonesia. Currently, the population at risk is about 36 million children or approximately 12.2%.

Experience in the US and Europe shows that the cost of removing decorative lead paint that is present in many buildings is enormous. In contrast, the cost of removing lead compounds in decorative paints is much lower, and alternatives to lead additives are available for all color types. The Indonesian paint and coating industry has many solid and competent domestic players, where local brands dominate the paint and coatings market. At least 150 paint manufacturers in Indonesia produce 1.5 million metric tons per year and employ more than 30,000 people.

At the “Market Leaders Commitments to Produce Lead-Free Paint by 2023” event at the Pullman Hotel, March 17, 2022, only three companies consistently signed commitments, namely PT Mowilex Indonesia, PT Rajawali Hiyoto, and PT Sigma Utama signed a commitment to produce paint. lead-free in 2023 to protect the quality future of Indonesian children.

Mowilex, who was one of the leaders in 2019, launched the “Mowilex Pasti Aman” program to identify that their products are lead-free and support regulations regarding the restriction of lead use in order to protect the health of Indonesian children. “Mowilex Indonesia took drastic action by halting the production of lead-based Mowilex Kayu Besi paints in May 2019. We knew that we would lose revenue while we paused to redevelop our formulas, but we felt that acting ethically and responsibly was more important. We have since taken the additional step to voluntarily remove our older lead-based paints from store shelves and distributor warehouses and replacing them with lead-free versions, at no cost to our customers” said Niko Safavi, CEO of Mowilex Indonesia.

The Indonesian National Standard (SNI) 8011:2014 stipulates the concentration of lead content in decorative paints at a minimum of 600 ppm is outdated and has been revised to 90 ppm, a safe figure that is agreed upon worldwide, but has not been established.

In 2020-2021, four medium-sized paint producers in Indonesia had successfully reformulated their paints with non-lead pigments. It is hoped that by 2022 there will be more producers ready to follow.

Abdus Syukur, PT Rajawali Hiyoto, stated, “Our company has collaborated with Nexus3 for the last three years to test reformulation of some paints. We are confident and ready to produce unleaded decorative paint in 2023”.

Aries Sumiadi, VP R & D, PT Sigma Utama, who are already in the process of reformulating the use of lead in their products, fully supports the efforts made regarding the elimination of lead use. “We as a domestic paint producer support the government's policy on a safe production process to protect the health of consumers, especially children. Because the function of paint is not only for protection and decoration, it must also protect the users or consumers," explained Aries.

The petition launched by Yuyun Ismawati in 2020 asking President Joko Widodo to make strict regulations for lead paint has received the support of more than 13,000 people. This indicates a sizable market demand.

Nexus3 Foundation - Nexus for Health, Environment, and Development works to protect com munities, particularly vulnerable populations, from the health and environmental impacts of development, and works towards a toxic-free, equitable and sustainable future.

ICEL - Indonesian Center for Environmental Law is an independent non-governmental organization for environmental law reform with a focus on policy advocacy through research, capacity building and case advocacy.

CRPG - Center for Regulation, Policy and Governance is a legal entity that facilitates research-based policy making, consultation and social responsibility.

This Press Release Document can be downloaded here:

Top Market Leaders Commitment 17 March 2022
Download PDF • 124KB

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