Leading from the front

Last year, a big can of worms was opened when someone detected paint containing lead being sold in South Africa. The first people in the firing line were not the manufacturers of the paint, but the South African Paint Manufacturers Association (SAPMA).

As Deryck Spence explains, “It was a nightmare. You had parents up in arms because the paint was used where children can get into contact with it. As soon as children are involved, the issue becomes emotional and then it snowballs very quickly.”

This event, which happened in 2009, has now become a driving force at SAPMA, and the team behind the association will not stop there. “The lead issue is something which we have to sort out now,” says Spence. The fact remains that SAPMA members are lead-free on the decorative side. However, roughly 20% of South Africa’s paint manufacturers do not belong to the society and therefore the association cannot guarantee that paint bought from non-SAPMA members by retailers will be lead-free.

Of the estimated 400 paint manufacturers in the country, around 320 belong to SAPMA and these members have to comply with strict guidelines. However, there is no way for these members to be easily identified and there is no way that retailers can guarantee that what they are selling to the homeowner is safe.

Upon looking at this situation, SAPMA has realised that it cannot just select members – the association should rather encourage everyone to join, especially retailers. “What we will do is provide retailers who join SAPMA with a list of approved paint manufacturers,” explains Spence.

Every SAPMA member that has signed a code of conduct regarding the manufacturing of its decorative paint will be on this list, giiving the retailer some guarantee that what they are purchasing is safe. If the paint is found not to adhere, the retailer will be able to prove that it has been misled and the responsibility of any claim will thus be laid at the manufacturer’s feet.

Furthermore, retailers who join SAPMA will be issued with stickers – one for the shop window to indicate that the shop is a SAPMA member and the second sticker to indicate that the retailer is a lead-free shop. SAPMA membership is only R300 per annum, which covers the admin behind the setting up of the new member.