THE Philippine based EcoWaste Coalition urges the Department of Education to direct public schools to start using light emitting diode (LED) bulbs instead of the mercury laden fluorescent lamps.
The green group issues the call after noting that a big number of spent fluorescent lamps were carelessly lying around the premises of public schools.
The situation also prompts the EcoWaste Coalition to ask local government units to assist all public schools in their respective jurisdictions in the proper disposal of the busted fluorescent lamps as the annual public school cleanup by Brigada Eskwela volunteers enters its third day.
EcoWaste Coalition Coordinator Thony Dizon says “spent lamps should not be hastily thrown in dumpsters to protect the glass tubing from breaking and releasing its mercury content in vapor form into the surroundings.” He pointed out that “it is obvious from our monitoring that our public schools do not have the capacity to deal with waste of hazardous nature such as broken or busted fluorescent lamps containing mercury.
“It is therefore important for local authorities to step in and help our schools by separately collecting their spent lamps for environmentally sound recycling in government-accredited hazardous waste treatment facilities. Local government units should partner with lighting companies or with the lighting industry association to seek practical ways of preventing lamp waste from polluting the environment with mercury,” Dizon adds.
In the meantime, the EcoWaste Coalition advises school principals, teachers and janitorial staff to ensure that spent compact, circular and linear fluorescent lamps are labelled and safely wrapped for temporary storage, stressing that the storeroom should be out of children’s reach and away from elements and human traffic.
Unknown to many, the reckless disposal of fluorescent lamp in bins or dumpsters will cause their fragile glass tubing to break or explode, exposing everyone near it, especially school janitors and garbage collectors to mercury, a potent neurotoxin.
Citing information from the government’s “Guidebook on the Management of Mercury-Containing Lamp Wastes,” the group warns that “when mercury-containing lamps are broken, compacted, crushed, or disposed of improperly, mercury is released into the air, water and land, posing significant threat to people and the environment.”
Furthermore, the guidebook says “mercury and its compounds are highly toxic… even low level exposure to mercury has caused serious health effects that including neurological damage, reproductive system damage, behavioral problems and learning disabilities.”