Testing paint for lead content: study results in Madagascar
Published on: August 17, 2022

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

In June 2021, the Madagascar Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health, the National Center for Environmental Research and LEEP conducted a paint testing study to determine the lead content of paints available to purchase in Madagascar. 

59 cans of solvent-based paints intended for household use were purchased in June 2021 from stores in Antananarivo, Madagascar. The paints represented 20 different brands and were produced by 20 different manufacturers. In most cases, one white paint and two bright-colored paints such as red or yellow were selected. If these colours were not available, similar colours such as cream or pink were selected. Automotive and industrial paints that are not typically used for domestic housing applications were excluded.

Rahalimalala Jean Fredinot (National Center for Environmental Research – CNRE), Virginie Rasoamampianina (CNRE), Rila Albani Rakotomanana (Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development) and Sergio Razakamahefa (Ministry of Public Health) preparing paint samples.

All paints were analysed by a laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, USA for lead content based on dry weight using inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry. The laboratory is accredited by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and it participates in the Environmental Lead Proficiency Analytical Testing program (ELPAT). The laboratory’s analytical methods and certifications are consistent with those recommended by the World Health Organisation for measuring lead in paint. 

This study found that 36 out of 59 paints sampled (61%) contained dangerous levels of lead (with a total lead concentration above 90 parts per million, ppm, by dry weight). 26 samples (44%) contained total lead concentrations above 600ppm. The highest lead content detected—measured in two samples— was 10,000ppm, which is over 110 times the recommended limit.

Yellow paints were the most likely to contain high levels of lead. 14 samples of yellow-coloured paint (78%) were found to contain lead above 90ppm, with an average lead concentration of 3334ppm. White and red paints were less likely to contain high lead content. 11 samples (52%) of white paints contained lead above 90ppm, with an average lead concentration of 1001ppm. 10 samples (50%) of red paints were found to contain lead above 90ppm, with an average lead content of 564ppm.

Lead content of the 59 samples of solvent-based paints. 90ppm is the maximum limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

High levels of lead were found in both coloured (red and yellow) and white paints. This indicates that lead pigments and/or lead driers may be the source of lead. 

16 out of 20 brands (80%) were found to have sold at least one paint with total lead concentration above 90ppm.

Proportion of paints that are lead paints (lead content >90ppm) by colour, of the 59 analysed solvent-based samples.

The results of this study and next steps were discussed at a workshop with stakeholders across the Malagasy government and the media on 21 July 2022. The aim of the workshop was to popularise a new standard, NMG 421-1, which limits the lead content of paint to less than 90ppm. The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MEDD) aims to introduce regulations to make the standard mandatory. Stakeholders also discussed a plan for raising awareness with paint manufacturers in Madagascar.  

LEEP is delighted that the Malagasy government, spearheaded by MEDD, is taking steps to regulate the sale, manufacture and import of lead paint. LEEP was pleased to be able to provide technical support and funding for the paint study and workshop. We will continue to support MEDD in their work eliminating lead in paint, which will improve the health, wellbeing and future potential of children in Madagascar.

Thank you to all project partners for their collaboration, including the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Public Health, the National Center for Environmental Research and the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint.

Find out more about the project in our interview with Rila Rakotomanana from MEDD

The Lead in Paint Madagascar committee at the workshop in July 2022