Health News

Lead laden paints used in refurbishing school armchairs gravely jeopardizing the health of Filipino children

Isabelo de los Reyes Elementary School in Tondo where armchair were refurbished with lead laden paints ©
Isabelo de los Reyes Elementary School in Tondo where armchair were refurbished with lead laden paints ©

THE EcoWaste Coalition on Saturday bares that paints with dangerous levels of lead were used in refurbishing armchairs in Philippine public schools.

Consequently, the pro environment and public health group asks paint companies to stop producing lead laden paint products to ensure the safety of their customers.

The coalition says it discovers that the paint used in the refurbishing of armchairs in some public schools contains dangerous levels of lead, a toxic chemical that causes cancer, physical deformities and brain damage. It adds that the use of the lead laden paint is in complete violation of a recent Department of Education Memorandum No. 85, Series of 2016 directing schools to only use lead-free paints “at all times.”

On Friday (June 3), coalition members went to Isabelo de los Reyes Elementary School in Tondo, Manila to repaint 50 armchairs earlier painted with lead-containing orange Triton Quick Drying Enamel.

Using  a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the group detected lead reaching 91,300 parts per million (ppm) in the orange Triton paint, way above  the 90 ppm maximum limit under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2013-24, also known as the Chemical  Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds. A yellow Triton Quick Drying Enamel paint used in some other armchairs was also found to contain high concentrations of lead at 65,100 ppm. 

As a quick fix, the group repainted the armchairs with lead-free orange Boysen Quick Drying Enamel.

Laboratory tests commissioned by the EcoWaste Coalition in 2012 and 2014 found dangerously high concentrations of lead in orange and yellow Triton paints with one sample having 156,000 ppm total lead.

Thony Dizon ©
Thony Dizon ©

“We are deeply upset by the continued production and sale of highly leaded paints that are finding their way into the school system in breach of the government’s lead-free paint policy in schools,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Repainting the armchairs with a lead-free paint, we admit, is a temporary remedy.  Sooner or later, the paint coatings, including the leaded paint underneath, will come off and create a lead hazard requiring immediate attention,” he said.

“We therefore urge the national and local government agencies to undertake enduring and holistic interventions that will protect our school children as well as their teachers against lead exposure,” he added.

DepEd, for instance, should conduct an inventory of paints used in this year’s Brigada Eskwela and evaluate the effectiveness of implementation of the department’s lead-free paint directive in the country’s public schools.

Children’s developing brains are permanently damaged by exposure to lead,  the EcoWaste Coalition said, stressing that even at very low exposures, lead can cause learning disabilities, lower IQ, inattentiveness, poor impulse control and aggressive behaviour.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.”

“With only few months remaining before the scheduled phase-out of leaded architectural, decorative and household paints on January 1, 2017, we appeal to paint manufacturers to stop producing lead-added paints and for paint stores not to stock up on such paints,” Dizon emphasized.

The EcoWaste Coalition likewise urged paint makers to participate in a third party certification program that will verify and certify that their products are safe from lead and lead compounds.

“This will help consumers identify safer paints and guide them in making informed choices that will minimize exposures to toxic lead among children and adults, including the painters,” the group said.

Nelson Flores, J.D., MSCK
A former reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila Standard Today, and a regular columnist of the Metro Manila based daily tabloid newspaper Hataw; Nelson Flores is also the former Senior Associate Editor of the Houston based Fil-Am Press and former anchor of dzXL and dzRJ's weekend talk show Usaping Bayan. Mr. Flores has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Law degrees from the University of Santo Tomas and Adamson University and a holder of a study certificate from the Diocesan House of Studies, Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI). He is a Freemason and member of Reagan Lodge 1037 in Houston Heights under the jurisdiction of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Texas and a member of the Missionary Society of Christ the King (MSCK).

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