With the yearly Brigada Eskwela in full swing, a waste and pollution watch group requested city and municipal governments to assist schools under their jurisdiction in managing busted mercury-containing fluorescent lamps.
The EcoWaste Coalition aired the urgent request after finding spent fluorescent lamps improperly disposed of in some school dumpsters as the clean-up drive enters its third day.
“Spent lamps should not be hastily thrown in dumpsters to protect the glass tubing from breaking and releasing its mercury content in vapor form into the surroundings,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“It is obvious from our monitoring that our public schools do not have the capacity to deal with waste of hazardous nature such as broken or busted fluorescent lamps containing mercury,” he pointed out.
“It is therefore important for local authorities to step in and help our schools by separately collecting their spent lamps for environmentally sound recycling in government-accredited hazardous waste treatment facilities,” he said.
“Local government units should partner with lighting companies or with the lighting industry association to seek practical ways of preventing lamp waste from polluting the environment with mercury,” he added.
In the meantime, the EcoWaste Coalition advised school principals, teachers and janitorial staff to ensure that spent compact, circular and linear fluorescent lamps are labelled and safely wrapped for temporary storage, stressing that the storeroom should be out of children’s reach and away from elements and human traffic.
Unknown to many, the reckless disposal of fluorescent lamp in bins or dumpsters will cause their fragile glass tubing to break or explode, exposing school janitors, waste collectors and the public to mercury, a potent neurotoxin.
Citing information from the government-published “Guidebook on the Management of Mercury-Containing Lamp Wastes,” the group warned that “when mercury-containing lamps are broken, compacted, crushed, or disposed of improperly, mercury is released into the air, water and land, posing significant threat to people and the environment.”
According to the said guidebook, “mercury and its compounds are highly toxic… even low level exposure to mercury has caused serious health effects that including neurological damage, reproductive system damage, behavioral problems and learning disabilities.”
To prevent the further generation of mercury-containing lamp waste, the EcoWaste Coalition encouraged schools to consider investing in energy-efficient, but mercury-free lighting substitutes such as light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.