PH environment watchdog calls for lead free schools

By Nelson Flores, Ll.B., MSCK

Image © ecowastecoalition.blogspot.com

AN environment and public health watchdog called on all of the country’s public elementary and secondary school heads to make lead safety part of the annual “Brigada Eskwela,” the bayanihan effort by the government and the local communities to conduct maintenance and repair of public school buildings and campuses.

The EcoWaste Coalition, in a statement, said its call is in line with the Department of Education Order No. 4 (Read More: http://www.deped.gov.ph/orders /do-4-s-2017 ) which directs all school head to ensure full compliance with the “mandatory use of lead-safe paints in schools.”

The Order aims to prevent the children’s exposure to lead through the ingestion of lead-contaminated paint chip, dust and soil in the school environment. Specifically, the mandatory use of lead safe paints to all painting and/or repainting works of school facilities, furniture, fixtures, learning materials and tools and equipment.

The requirement of the said DO. also applies to paint-coated goods or products directly procured by the school as well as those sourced by other means such as through individual, group, corporate or local government donations.

Moreover, DO. No. 4 is complemented by DO. No. 64 (Read More: http://www.deped.gov.ph/orders /do-64-s-2017 ) which specifies the minimum performance standards and specifications for DepEd school buildings. It mandates that “paint materials (to be used in DepEd buildings) must be independently certified lead-safe paints/coatings.”

(File Photo) Thony Dizon © http://www.untvweb.com

“We laud Education Secretary Briones for her steadfast commitment to promote a lead-safe school environment for Filipino children as contained in DOs 4 and 64, series of 2017. Strict compliance to these orders is crucial to stop the entry and use of lead-containing architectural, decorative and household (ADH) paints in all schools following the completion of the three-year phase-out for such paints last December 2016,” said EcoWaste Coalition Chemical Safety Campaigner Thony Dizon.

“The effective enforcement of these orders will also help in reducing the creation and dispersion of lead-tainted paint chip, dust and soil from the Brigada Eskwela school cleanup and renovation activities that children may ingest or inhale,” he added.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “the most common lead hazards in schools are lead-based paint, lead dust and contaminated soil.”

Exposure to lead can permanently damage the brain and the central nervous system, impair growth and development, and cause learning and behavioral problems, Dizon warned.

“As there is no safe threshold for lead exposure, we need to pay serious attention on eliminating preventable lead pollution sources such as lead-containing paints in our homes, schools and communities,” he added.

Furthermore, Dizon said “DO. 4-2017 is by far the most important lead poisoning prevention directive made by the DepEd complementing the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.”

Meanwhile, to drum up awareness and compliance to the ban on lead-containing ADH paints, the EcoWaste Coalition will distribute posters to Metro Manila schools announcing the phase-out of such paints.

During the week of the Brigada Eskwela, May 28 to June 2, the EcoWaste Coalition will deploy a roving team targeting Quezon City schools to promote compliance to DO. 4-2017.

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