Cebu City. By choosing lead safe paints, we prevent adding new sources of lead to the environments of our kids. Exposure to hazardous paint chips and dust can damage their brains, retard their development and put their future at risk.
This is the take home message from a citizens’ forum held at the Cebu City Hall that tackled the problems with paints containing lead, a toxic chemical that has been shown to harm a child’s developing brain and central nervous system even at low levels of exposure and these effects can have very serious consequences throughout their lives.
Sponsored by the Offices of Councilors Nida Cabrera and Alvin Dizon in cooperation with the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition and local civil society groups, the forum had visiting environmental health scientist Dr. Scott Clark, Professor Emeritus at the University of Cincinnati (USA) as one of the speakers.
Dr. Clark has for several years been assisting the EcoWaste Coalition and other environmental groups involved in the European Union-funded Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project in the Philippines and six other developing countries. Prof. Clark was in Cebu City in 2009 for a lead paint hazard awareness event.
The forum came on the heels of a resolution adopted by the Cebu City Council on June 11 requesting the city government to adopt and pursue a lead safe paint procurement policy.
“This event is in support of our stance as City Council to promote the health and well-being of our children who are vulnerable to environmental toxins such as lead in paint chips, dust and soil by requiring ‘lead safe’ in government paint purchase orders,” stated Councilor Cabrera.
Although a Chemical Control Order (CCO) restricting lead in paints has recently been adopted in the Philippines, there are still actions that need to be taken to ensure that the benefits to children and others are actually achieved, she noted.
“By specifying that only lead safe paints should be carefully used for publicly-funded facilities, especially those frequented by small children such as playgrounds, schools and housing, the government is making a wise move to minimize future incidents of childhood lead exposure,” Dr. Clark said.
One of the most effective ways of ensuring that the CCO is enforced is for consumers to demand that the paints they purchase are in compliance, Dr. Clark pointed out.
“Such procurement practice can be most effective if instituted by large consumers of paints such as national government agencies, cities and municipalities, school systems, real estate developers and homeowners’ associations,” Dr. Clark suggested.
He added that such procurement process should require that the paint can label provides a warning of the hazards of lead dust, which may be created as surfaces are prepared for repainting.
Dr. Clark lamented that presently over 300,000 children in US are still over exposed to lead to the extent that public health interventions are needed despite the fact that unleaded paints have been banned for thirty-six years.
According to Dr. Clark, most of these exposures are from leaded paints used before 1978. Lead from these ’legacy paints’ have deteriorated over time creating hazardous lead levels in dust that are ingested by young children as a result of normal hand to mouth activity.
“Many of these exposures occurred when dangerous amounts of lead dust were created as lead-painted surfaces were sanded and scraped to prepare the surfaces for re-painting with lead-safe paints,“ emphasized Dr. Clark, who has done extensive research on lead-based paint exposure assessments and hazard controlling environments where children are present.
“It’s absolutely prudent to curb further use of lead paints in the Philippines and to warn of lead dust hazards elsewhere and avoid damages to human health and very costly lead hazard control interventions in the future,” he said.
Some twenty-four million housing units in US still have significant lead-based paint hazards requiring interventions costing an average of $10,000 per housing unit, or a total of $240 billion, he pointed out.