A waste and toxic watchdog group today asked Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle to require the use of lead-free paints for church-related construction and renovation projects in the Archdiocese of Manila.
Through a letter sent today, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the Archbishop of Manila to adopt a “Lead-Safe Paint Procurement Policy” to protect young children, as well as women of child-bearing age and workers, against the harmful effects of being exposed to lead - one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” identified by the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the WHO, “lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children… estimated to contribute to about 600,000 new cases of children developing intellectual disabilities every year” worldwide.
“There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe,” the WHO reminded.
“Recognizing your authentic concern for the health and well-being of your flock, we highly encourage you to set a clear guidance to the church engineering and purchasing departments that only certified lead safe paints will be purchased or used for all approved construction and renovation projects,” wrote Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Adopting such a policy will send a concrete message that the church leadership is taking concrete action to proactively prevent lead exposure among its employees, contractors and the general public,” she said.
The group made the recommendation following Tagle’s issuance of Circular No. 2016-05 outlining new procedures for the construction and renovation of structures and institutions owned or affiliated with the Archdiocese of Manila.
The said directive is applicable to construction and renovation projects in parishes, chapels, diocesan schools, dormitories, formation and retreat centers, cemeteries and other properties of the archdiocese.
“Our drive to encourage major paint consumers such as churches and schools complements our effort to secure industrial compliance to the government regulation phasing out leaded architectural, decorative and household paints by January 1, 2017 and leaded industrial paints by 1 January 2020,” Lucero said.
The phase-out deadlines for leaded paints are provided for under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2013-24 (also known as the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds).
The EcoWaste Coalition cited the closure of two diocesan schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago, USA due to high lead levels in the school premises to justify its push for a lead-free environment in the country's educational system.
Citing reports from Chicago Tribune, the group recalled the closure of St. Elizabeth School in 2015 and the Holy Angels Catholic School in 2016 due to lead in paint and dust, which are major sources of childhood lead poisoning.
Using only lead safe paints in church projects will also make the maintenance, repair and redecoration of painted surfaces simpler and less hazardous, minimize the dispersal of lead-contaminated dust, and avoid the costs associated with lead paint abatement, the group stated.
The group insisted that implementing a lead-safe paint procurement policy is “totally doable” because of the market availability of paints with no lead added.
The group noted that major paint manufacturers have already stopped using lead as raw material for their products, while other paint companies are transitioning to non-lead substitutes for their oil-based products.
Water-based paints generally do not contain lead and are widely obtainable in the market, the group said.