Group Promotes Children's Right to Play in a Safe Environment, Prods Authorities to Improve Conditions of Playgrounds

An environmental and health watchdog group reminded the national and local authorities to duly attend to the right of every child to rest and leisure as the nation observes the National Children’s Month this October.

In a statement released in conjunction with the countrywide celebration of the children’s month led by the interagency Council for the Welfare of Children, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed to society’s responsibility in realizing Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that governments, including the Philippines, adopted in 1989.

According to Article 31 of the Convention, “s
tate parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.”

“Without relegating the other equally important rights of a child, we wish to draw everyone’s attention to the need to provide all children with opportunities to relax and have fun in a safe environment that will not pose risk to their health and well-being,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“The right to play is indispensable to a child’s complete growth and development as a person,” he emphasized. 

To demonstrate the problem with the prevailing play environment, the EcoWaste Coalition cited the pitiable state of some play and recreational sites that the group visited on Thursday, October 9, in Paco, Manila City; Industrial Valley, Marikina City; Santolan, Pasig City and Batasan Hills, Quezon City.

“All the four playgrounds we visited are regrettably in various states of disrepair and neglect,” Dizon said.

“We found not a few broken seesaws and swings and rusty play equipment that should be refurbished or altogether replaced,” he said.

“But what we found most disturbing was the presence of elevated levels of lead, a neurotoxin, in some play equipment and structure with painted surfaces that are badly chipping.  The lead level of such paint chips can be much higher than the lead level in dust and can be very harmful if ingested by a playful child,” he pointed out.

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the group was able to detect lead levels up to a whopping 215,000 parts per million (ppm) in some play apparatuses and park railings, way past the threshold limit of 90 ppm for decorative paints.

The exceedingly high lead levels detected could be attributed to the multilayer application of paints with high concentrations of lead.

Aside from the chemical risk linked to the ingestion or inhalation of lead paint chips and dust, the group cited the illegal practice of open trash burning in one playground as another concern.

“Open burning releases tiny smoke particles that impair the air quality, as well as discharges dioxins and other environmental pollutants that are particularly hazardous for children,” Dizon said.

Also, the group noted the risk of electrocution in one park due to an electrical circuit breaker with broken covering and which can be easily reached by children.

To ensure that children enjoy their entitlement to rest and leisure, the EcoWaste Coalition proposed that local authorities conduct a comprehensive safety evaluation of existing playgrounds and parks under their jurisdiction.

The group further stressed that the authorities should carry out appropriate remedial measures, including proper lead paint abatement, to prevent and reduce health and safety risks for children using the facilities.