As the nation’s schools prepare for the graduation ceremonies this month, an environmental watchdog urged school principals to give out only non-toxic medals to their distinguished academic, athletic and cultural achievers.
Following Education Secretary Armin Luistro’s advisory last Friday that “graduation rites should be conducted without excessive spending, extravagant attires or expensive venues,” the EcoWaste Coalition was quick to add that achievement medals given during such a momentous occasion should be entirely “toxic-free.”
“We appeal to school administrators to clearly specify to donors and suppliers that medals for student achievers should not pose any toxic hazard,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“If painted, the paint used should comply with the allowable limit for lead in paint, which is 90 parts per million (ppm),” he said, stressing that the use of lead in the production of school supplies is strictly prohibited under a government-issued Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.
“Aside from medals, purchasers should likewise require unleaded-paint for other tokens of recognition such as trophies or glass, metal and plastic plaques,” he added.
“Please don’t award your student achievers with tokens laden with brain-damaging lead,” he pleaded.
Dizon pointed out that some medals with paint coatings may contain dangerous levels of lead, a toxic metal that can cause serious and irreparable harm to children’s health, way above the 90 ppm limit.
Citing the results of the chemical screening conducted by his group, Dizon recalled that in 2013 lead up to 123,800 ppm was detected in 22 out of 30 medals, while in 2014 lead up to 39,500 ppm was detected in 10 medals and 3 trophies.
As a general precaution, school authorities should advise recipients not to play with, bite, lick or suck on their medals to avoid the ingestion of paint chips that may contain high levels of lead, the EcoWaste Coalition said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lead is one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” and that lead-based paints are a major source of children’s exposure to lead.
“At high levels of acute exposure, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system to cause coma, convulsions and even death. Children who survive acute lead poisoning are typically left with grossly obvious mental retardation and behavioural disruption,” the WHO-published “Childhood Lead Poisoning” said.
“At lower levels of exposure that cause no obvious symptoms and that previously were considered safe, lead is now known to produce a spectrum of injury that causes loss of cognition, shortening of attention span, alteration of behaviour, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs,” the WHO further said.
The WHO emphasized that “for the most part, these effects are permanent. They are irreversible and untreatable by modern medicine.”