Toxics Watchdog Thumbs Up Makati's Lenten "Kubol" (19 out of 22 "kubol" meet US regulatory limit for lead in paint

The makeshift structures or “kubol” for the traditional “Pabasa” in Barangay Poblacion in Makati City drew commendation from a toxics watchdog for their use of “no lead added” paints.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the rare citation today after the painted “kubols” were screened this morning for lead using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, a device routinely used by government regulators in US and other countries.

Engr. Ramir Castro of QES (Manila), Inc. conducted the XRF screening together with members of the EcoWaste Coalition's AlerToxic Patrol.

Lead, a heavy metal often used as drier or pigment in paint formulations, is listed as one of the “10 chemicals of major public health concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has indicated that there is no safe threshold for lead exposure.

“Out of the 22 creatively decorated ‘kubol’ we visited, lead above the US limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) was detected in only three of the makeshift structures,” reported Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project PROTECT.

“This could be attributed to the common use of latex paints with no lead added as confirmed by some of the 'kalbaristas' we spoke to,” he said.

The ‘kubol’ by the Kilusang Magkakapitbahay ng Pertierra, Samahang Alpha Spirits, Samahang Maria Aurora, Samahang Silahis and Tanglaw ng Kabataan, which were among the most colorful, passed the regulatory limit for lead indicating the availability of required paint colors with no lead added, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The 10-foot image of a suffering Jesus Christ, the centerpiece of the kubol by the Samahang Santiago Subdivision, which landed on the frontpages of major broadsheets and tabloids on Holy Wednesday, also tested negative for lead.

“The safety of the ‘kubol’ from lead in paint should entice more children to get involved in the neighbourhood ‘pabasa’ and the spiritual nourishment it brings,” Dizon further said.

While most of the “kubol” meet the regulatory standard of 90 ppm, the EcoWaste Coalition detected lead above this limit in three “kubol.”

Lead was also detected in three old racks used for holding the "Pasyon" book and in an old bench, which could be linked to lead-added paints applied on them in the past.

The EcoWaste Coalition duly notified the concerned "kalbaristas" about the findings and requested them to take basic precautionary measures such as preventing kids from touching materials with lead.

“While harmful to all people when inhaled or swallowed, lead is particularly damaging to the developing brains and nervous systems of young children who are most vulnerable to lead exposure due to their usual hand-to-mouth activities,” said Dizon.

The EcoWaste Coalition conducted the screening for lead in painted “kubols” as part of its campaign to build awareness and support for the elimination of lead-added paints to promote children’s health and safety.