25 March 2013, Quezon City. The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, found lead above levels of concern in some of the "kubol" (hut) that will be used this week for the traditional “Pabasa” or recital of the “Passion of Christ” in Barangay Poblacion, Makati City.
Based on the screening conducted by the group last Saturday using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device, lead above the US limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) was detected in 9 of the 17 “Kalbaryo” set up by various neighbourhood associations. One kubol had 11,000 ppm of lead.
The “Kalbaryo” by the Samahang Bagong Pag-Asa, Samahang Guardian, Samahang Ilaya Heights, Samahang Iskinita ng Bonifacio, Samahang Kayumanggi, Samahang Magkakapit-Bahay, Samahang Padre Zamora and Samahang St. Paul had low or non-detectable level of lead, indicating the use of unleaded paints.
The group conducted the screening as part of its ongoing advocacy towards the elimination of lead-added architectural or decorative paints to prevent children’s exposure from lead in such products.
Lead, a heavy metal often used as drier or pigment in paint formulations, is listed as one of the “10 chemicals of major public health concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol initiated the XRF screening that Engr. Ramir Castro of QES (Manila), Inc. conducted.
“As the ‘Pabasa’ attracts residents of all ages, including young children, we find it crucial that only non-lead paint products are used to decorate the ‘kubol’ where it is held,” said Jeiel Guarino of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Lean Paint Elimination Project.
“Doctors have identified no safe blood lead level in children. It is therefore our responsibility to keep their surroundings safe from lead-based paint, a major threat to children’s health, and other sources of lead pollution,” he pointed out.
Lead is dangerous to human health when inhaled, swallowed or, in some cases, absorbed through the skin, but it is most damaging to young children, Guarino emphasized.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “lead is especially dangerous to children under six years of age and can affect children’s brains and developing nervous systems, causing reduced IQ, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems.”
“When refurbishing any painted surfaces, essential precaution must be observed to prevent the dispersal of paint dust that could potentially contain lead,” reminded Guarino, “and enter a child’s body through their habitual hand-to-mouth activities.”
The group advised the neighbourhood associations to be extra careful when dismantling makeshift “kubol” after the Holy Week to avoid the possible dispersal of lead chips and dust.
The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.