School officials, teachers, parents, students and other community members today gave the thumbs up to the mandatory use of lead-safe paints in schools as ordered by the Department of Education (DepEd).
At the launch of the Brigada Eskwela activities in Project 6 Elementary School and Ernesto Rondon High School in Quezon City, participants expressed their unity with the government’s policy that aims to prevent and reduce children’s exposure to lead paint hazards at schools.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a staunch advocate for the eradication of lead paints and the risks that such paints pose to public health and the environment, partnered with the schools to drum up awareness and support for DepEd’s Department Order 4 issued by Secretary Leonor Briones last January 2017 requiring the use of certified lead-safe paints in preparatory, elementary and secondary schools.
It will be recalled that DepEd issued D.O. 4 in view of the three-year phase-out period for lead-containing architectural, decorative and household paints that culminated last December 2016 as per Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2013-24, or the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.
“Our collaborative action today signifies that it takes a whole community to make our schools safe from lead and other environmental toxins that can affect children’s growth and development during their critical formative years,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“We need everyone to be informed and involved to ensure a healthy learning environment for all children. A lead-free school is an investment in our children’s health and future,” he emphasized.
According to D.O. 4, “the use of lead-safe paints shall reduce children’s exposure to toxic lead via lead-containing paint and dust, thus, avoiding health impacts including learning disabilities, anemia and disorders in coordination, visual, spatial, and language skills.”
“Children are exposed to lead from paint when lead-containing paint on walls, windows, doors or other painted surfaces begins to chip or deteriorate, since this causes lead to be released to dust and soil,” explained Jeiel Guarino, International Lead Paint Campaigner of IPEN, a global NGO network pursuing safe chemicals policies and practices.,
“When a surface previously painted with lead paint is sanded or scraped in preparation for repainting, very large amounts of lead-contaminated dust is produced, which, when spread, can constitute a severe health hazard,” he explained.
During the Brigada Eskwela event, speakers reminded the participants that the compulsory use of lead-safe paints applies to school facilities (classrooms, library, playground, covered court, gate and fence), furniture (tables, chairs and cabinets), fixtures (blackboards), learning materials (teaching aids, school supplies and toys) and tools and equipment.
D.O. 4 also applies to paint-coated goods or products directly procured by the school as well as those sourced by other means such as through individual, group, corporate or local government donations.
D.O.4 states that all products donated or sold to schools such as, but not limited to, paints, bags, school supplies and furnishings by commercial and non-commercial establishments, as well as concerned individuals, must comply with the DENR A.O. 2013-24 and other relevant lead-related regulations.
Moreover, D.O. 4 calls for the proper removal and disposal of lead paints to prevent the generation and dispersal of lead-containing dust that children may ingest or inhale.
As part of the group’s “Toxic-Free Back-to-School Drive,” the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with the following reminders to prevent and reduce children’s and workers’ exposure to lead in paint and dust:
1. Use only certified lead-safe paints for school interiors, exteriors, furniture and fixtures, gymnasium, play equipment and other school amenities.
2. Keep children and pregnant women out of the work area (lead is very hazardous to developing fetuses).
3. Refrain from dry sanding or dry scraping painted surfaces that might contain lead so as not to disperse lead dust into the surroundings.
4. Clean up paint chips immediately.
5. Use moist mop or rag to rid floors, windows, window frames and sills, chairs and tables and other surfaces of dust, and wash it thoroughly after use.
6. Wash hands properly with soap and water before meals and after the work is done.
7. After a repainting job, change clothes before going home, set aside in a sealed reusable bag and wash separately.
8. Clean or remove shoes and slippers before entering your home to avoid bringing in soil that may contain lead into the house.
“Because of the long-term benefits of a lead-free environment to our children’s health, it is essential for all sectors to rally behind our nation’s efforts to phase out lead paints and address all sources of lead contamination and poisoning,” the EcoWaste Coalition stated.