Pinoy Students Kick Off Global Campaign to Prevent Lead Poisoning

Over a thousand enthusiastic students today unfurled a giant banner that says “Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future” at the launch of a global campaign for preventive action to stop childhood exposure to lead, a brain-damaging chemical.

The collaborative event by the EcoWaste Coalition and the Kamuning Elementary School was held to kick off the first ever International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action initiated by the UN-backed Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint of which the former is a member.

The Week of Action aims to raise awareness about lead exposure, publicize efforts to prevent childhood lead poisoning, and promote action to eliminate lead paint - the focus of this year’s celebration.

The event saw “Brain Protector,” the EcoWaste Coalition’s latest “super hero,” being introduced during an interactive storytelling. Wielding paint cans marked “no lead added,” he mingled with the students to draw attention to the harmful effects of lead exposure such as decreased intelligence, poor school performance, mental retardation and violent behavior.

Chemist Jeiel Guarino, Policy and Communications Officer of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Lead Paint Elimination Project, explained that “we are here to stir awareness among the pupils, their parents and teachers about childhood lead exposure and spur interest and action to deter such exposure,” stressing that lead poisoning should and must be avoided.

Among the main sources of childhood lead exposure are lead-containing paint, dust and soil, as well as lead-laden children’s products such as kids’ jewelries, school supplies and toys.

“Lead exposure is a well-known source of harm to children’s health that can cause adverse lifelong effects. It is therefore important that sources of lead hazards such as lead paint and dust in children’s environment be identified and minimized, if not entirely and safely removed, to protect kids from sure harm,” said Dr. Eric Tayag, Department of Health Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson, who graced the event.

Visiting scientist Dr. Sara Brosche, Manager of the European Union-funded Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project, emphasized “there is no acceptable blood lead level in children that is considered safe; hence the need for society to adopt essential precautionary and preventive policies and practices to ensure a lead-safe environment for all kids.”

According to the newly-published IPEN booklet entitled “Eliminate Lead Paint: Protect Children’s Health,” the most common way that children ingest lead is through lead-contaminated dust and soil that gets onto their hands.

“Once lead enters a child’s body through ingestion or inhalation or across the placenta, it has the potential to damage a number of biological systems and pathways,” it said.

“The primary target is the central nervous system and the brain, but it can also affect the blood system, the kidneys and the skeleton,” it further said.

To prevent children’s exposure to lead, the EcoWaste Coalition echoed the following recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control:

1. Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint.

2. Create barriers between living/play areas and lead sources.

3. Regularly wash children’s hands and toys. Remove recalled toys and toy jewelry immediately from children.

4. Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe window components.

5. Prevent children from playing in bare soil.

The EcoWaste Coalition-led campaign is part of a seven-country Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project by IPEN, a global civil society network promoting safe chemical policies and practices to protect human health and the environment.

The European Union has provided a grant of PHP75 million to IPEN for its three-year project that is concurrently being carried out in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Philippines.