A non-profit environmental watch group went school hopping this week in a bid to publicize the Department of Education’s policy requiring the obligatory use of lead-safe paints in decorating schools.
Coinciding with this week’s Brigada Eskwela, the volunteers and staff of the EcoWaste Coalition went to over 250 preparatory, elementary and secondary schools located in 23 cities and municipalities in Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan and Rizal.
The public and private schools visited were provided with copies of DepEd Department Order 4, Series of 2017, entitled “Mandatory Use of Lead-Safe Paints in Schools,” plus a matching “Lead-Free School” poster published by the EcoWaste Coalition.
Schools were also given copies of the group’s “Zero-Waste School” poster, which seeks to promote adherence to D.O. 5, s.2014, which provides for the “Implementing Guidelines on the Integration of Gulayan sa Paaralan, Solid Waste Management and Tree Planting Under the National Greening Program (NGP).”
“We appeal to our principals and teachers to take an active role in preventing the entry of lead-containing paints and products in their schools as this will help in creating a healthy and safe learning environment that all kids deserve,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“As lead has no beneficial purpose for the human body and is, in fact, damaging to human health, we ask our schools to literally shut the door on lead-containing paints and products, and stop a preventable source of childhood lead exposure,” he added.
As correctly pointed out in 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,” Dizon said.
Surfaces coated with lead paint will deteriorate with time or when disturbed, and this will cause the lead from the paint to contaminate the dust and soil that children can ingest during customary hand-to-mouth behavior, the EcoWaste Coalition explained.
As stated by the World Health Organization, “children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage.”
Exposure to lead, which is damaging to the brain and the central nervous system, can result in health and development issues such as decreased intelligence, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems, to name a few.
As per D.O. 4, the use of lead-safe paints 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.
Moreover, D.O.4 requires 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 Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order 2013-24, or the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds, and other relevant regulations.