OIL paints containing dangerous levels of lead and barium are being used in Hong Kong schools, the Consumer Council warned yesterday. It called on the Education Department to take action over the paints which do not come under the Toys and Children Safety Ordinance because they are also used by professional artists. It said five of 18 paints tested in a product called Marie's Oil Colours contained amounts of lead and barium up to six times the British Standards safety limit. And the metal tubes in which the paints were sold also contained levels of lead and chromium exceeding safety limits by up to 82 times, said vice-chairman of the council, Dr Lo Chi-kin. 'We advise all teachers and parents to be careful about choosing the paints they buy for children,' he said. 'The Education Department said similar paints to those in question are being used in some schools, and we urge they contact those involved and take appropriate measures. 'If you are in contact with heavy metals for a long time, they can get into your body and seriously affect the health of organs such as the kidneys and the nervous system.' Dr Lo also urged suppliers of art materials to adopt labelling standards which inform consumers of health hazards. He said oil colours were not under legislative control and warned consumers to use the products with care. Smaller children were particularly at risk, he added. Initial symptoms of heavy metal poisoning included vomiting and convulsions. The Government will not be able to act until October when the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance comes into operation. The Education Department's principal inspector of cultural crafts, Yeung Wai-fung, said only senior students used oil colours as part of their curriculum. He could not confirm the use in schools of the brand tested but said most products used by professional artists could be dangerous if misused. 'Oil paints are only used in senior forms from five to seven where students are around 16 to 18 years old. 'The students know how to handle these materials. Teachers warn them of the right precautions to take while using them. We also issue safety handbooks and organise seminars on the use of toxic products.' The council warned consumers buying refrigerators that information supplied by manufacturers and retailers on products was often lax. It warned customers to observe storage volume, energy efficiency, power consumption, temperatures achievable and star ratings of refrigerators before purchasing.