Watchdog Urges Schools to Take DepEd’s Directive on Lead-Free Paints to Heart

Photo Courtesy of Boy Santos

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watch group, today lauded the Department of Education (DepEd) for acting on its request to ensure that only lead-safe paints will be used in all schools during the Brigada Eskwela next week and beyond.

On Tuesday, Education Secretary Armin Luistro issued DepEd Memorandum No. 85, series of 2016 stating “the use of lead-free paints in schools must be observed at all times, especially during the conduct of activities related to Brigada Eskwela and other preparations for the opening of classes.”

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier requested Luistro to issue a directive that will make it mandatory for schools to use only lead-safe coatings for painting school facilities and amenities.

“We urge school principals, teachers and all Brigada Eskwela supporters to take DepEd’s directive to heart as this will help in preventing childhood lead exposure through the ingestion and inhalation of lead-containing paint, dust and soil,” stated Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Please specify to your benefactors to donate paints with no added lead that are safe to use for school interiors, exteriors, chairs and tables,” she suggested.

“It is our shared responsibility to remove preventable sources of lead exposure in our children’s surroundings such as lead-containing paints,” she added, stressing “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe” as stated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The group likewise cautioned Brigada Eskwela participants against disturbing old paints that might contain lead, emphasizing that dry sanding or scraping can generate huge quantities of lead dust that is detrimental to human health.

Citing information from the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP), the DepEd directive warned  that “childhood lead poisoning can have lifelong health impacts, including learning disabilities, anemia and disorders in coordination, visual, spatial and language skills.”

GAELP, a cooperative venture of the WHO and the United Nations Environment Programme, includes the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the EcoWaste Coalition and the Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines, Inc. among its partners.

The EcoWaste Coalition is the civil society partner of the DENR and the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) in promoting effective compliance to the country’s phase-out deadlines for leaded-decorative paints by January 2017 and leaded-industrial paints by January 2019.

On Monday, members of the EcoWaste Coalition will participate in the Brigada Eskwela activities at Sto. Cristo Elementary School in Bago Bantay, Quezon City to help with the school repair and maintenance, as well as to drum up support for a lead-safe school environment.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition thanked Senators Chiz Escudero, Loren Legarda and Grace Poe and incoming Senators Risa Hontiveros and Migz Zubiri who, along with over 100 health professionals, educators, environmentalists, religious leaders and  trade unionists, have supported the group’s call for Luistro “to declare the entire educational system as a lead-free zone by adopting a lead-safe paint procurement policy and by carefully addressing lead paint hazards.”

In her letter to Luistro, Legarda pointed out that “various studies have shown that lead exposure is highly detrimental to the health and early development of young children and could possibly result in permanent and irreversible effects.”

“In this regard, I join the EcoWaste Coalition’s call to adopt a lead-free procurement policy for all materials to be used in the construction and maintenance of educational institutions,” she said.
DENR Assistant Secretary Juan Miguel Cuna, who is concurrent Director of the Environmental Management Bureau, also wrote to Luistro conveying the same message.

Some of the country’s foremost health organizations have likewise backed the call for a lead-safe school environment, including the Philippine Medical Association – Committee on Environmental Health and Ecology, Child Neurology Society of the Philippines, Philippine Academy of Family Physicians,  Philippine Pediatric Society,  Philippine Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology.