Makati "Kalbaristas" Urged to Prepare for Lead-Safe "Pabasa" Venues

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, has appealed to the Catholic faithful of Barangay Poblacion in Makati City to choose paints without lead for their upcoming Holy Week activities.

The devotees, grouped into different neighborhood associations within the Parish of Sts. Peter and Paul, are known for keeping the tradition of reading or singing the Passion of Christ alive in a “kubol” (hut) representing a mini-“Kalbaryo”(Calvary), hence the term “Kalbarista”.

Through a letter delivered last week to 38 associations of “Kalbaristas,” the EcoWaste Coalition made a pitch for non-lead paints to ensure that the creatively-made structures for the long-established “Pabasa”will be safe for adults and children alike.

Each “Kalbaryo,” the EcoWaste Coalition noted, is artistically and resourcefully done and often involves the use of paint materials.

“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 Lead 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.”

Last year, the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect screened 22 “kubols” as part of its campaign to build awareness and support for the elimination of lead-added paints to promote children’s health and safety.

Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, the group found three of the 22 “kubols” with painted components exceeding the US limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for lead in paint.

The group will again visit Barangay Poblacion on March 23 to conduct a similar XRF screening of the "kubols."

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.