Quezon City. To the delight of children’s health and chemical safety campaigners, seven presidential candidates have declared their common stance towards the elimination of lead, a toxic metal, in paints.
Sen. Noynoy Aquino, Sen. Dick Gordon, Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Sen. Manny Villar, Coun. JC de los Reyes, environmentalist Nicky Perlas and evangelist Eddie Villanueva favored lead-free paints to promote the health and wellness of Filipino children.
The EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace announced the 3rd installment of the Green Electoral Initiative (GEI) survey results in time for the World Health Day on April 7, which highlighted the presidential candidates’ positions and plans on chemical pollution and consumer safety issues.
Perlas ranked first with 9.1 points, followed by Gordon 7.9, Villanueva 6.98, Madrigal 6.26, Villar 6.16, Aquino 5.14 and de los Reyes 1.8. The other two candidates, former Pres. Erap Estrada and Defense Sec. Gibo Teodoro, failed to earn points in the green ranking exercise for not responding to the survey.
“Eliminating lead in paints is key to reducing lead hazards in the environment and in preventing childhood lead exposure and poisoning.
We are thrilled to learn that our presidential candidates are one with us in our advocacy to ensure our children’s health and safety from lead,” said Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition and the International POPs Elimination Network, a global NGO network that has initiated a campaign to put children’s health first and eliminate lead paint.
"We've already phased out lead in gasoline. It's high time for the national government to now cut the largest source of lead exposure for our children, lead in paint, and vigorously push for an industry shift to kid-safe, non-toxic alternatives," added Ines Fernandez of Arugaan and the Save Babies Coalition.
According to the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paints (an international partnership jointly coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Health Organization), “children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage.”
Lead has caused extensive environmental contamination, human exposure and health problems, including neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal system ailments, according to UNEP and WHO.
Gordon, Madrigal and Villar pointed to the health and environmental hazards posed by lead in paints, with Gordon stressing that “we cannot allow toxins that severely affect human health – and intellectual capacity at that – to proliferate.”
Perlas and Villanueva reiterated that alternatives to lead in paints exist, “but we need a strong consumer protection agency that is free from inappropriate industry influence—one that involves civil society participation” stated Perlas.
On the broader issue of chemical safety, Perlas, Gordon, Villanueva and Madrigal offered the most extensive inputs that drew the attention of the GEI non-partisan evaluators, including proposals on how to integrate chemical safety into the country’s health, environment and development agenda such as through consumer information and education, product labeling, and public disclosure of chemicals in materials, products and wastes.
Perlas emphasized the need to address not only the harmful chemicals in consumer products, but also the toxins in agriculture, energy and mining sectors, while also underlining the need to heighten consumer awareness regarding the importance of reading and understanding the labels placed on food products.
“(I will) require manufacturers to fully and properly disclose and register on a publicly accessible registry linked to other similar registries in other countries the chemical components of their raw
materials, consumer products, and waste, and make exposures to the general public of toxic substances become an issue of consumer safety, and work with Congress to amend existing environmental and consumer protection laws,” Gordon said.
Villanueva, for his part, proposed the establishment of a broad chemicals safety information network that will enable information on chemicals, their properties and their safe handling and management to thoroughly penetrate the public consciousness.
In addition to issuing an executive order on chemical safety, Madrigal pledged to initiate a review on the country’s policy on poison control and regulation.
WHO/UNEP information on lead in paint:
IPEN webpage on “Children’s Health First, Eliminate Lead Paint” campaign: