Renowned Environmental Health Leaders Laud Filipino Children’s Storybook on Lead Poisoning Prevention

"Ang Makulay na Bahay" storytelling activity held on July 31, 2015 at Dagat-Dagatan Elementary School, Navotas City in cooperation with the local chapter of Rotary Club International.
Distinguished environmental health advocates from the Philippines and abroad welcomed the groundbreaking publication of a storybook to educate kids and adults about toxic lead and how to prevent exposure.

Last week, the EcoWaste Coalition released “Ang Makulay na Bahay” (The Colorful House), the first-ever Filipino children’s storybook about lead in paint and dust  written by Dr. Luis P. Gatmaitan, a medical doctor and an award-winning children’s literature fictionist and essayist, and illustrated by graphic artist Gilbert F. Lavides.

Illustrious recipients of the Goldman Environmental Prize, known by many as the green Nobel Prize, from Russia, Philippines and Indonesia, as well as the Philippine Medical Association, gave the storybook a resounding thumbs up.

Russian scientist Dr. Olga Speranskaya,  Co-Chairperson of IPEN, a global civil society network promoting safe chemical policies and practices, said the book “is a great example of a publication that raises the awareness of parents and children about chemical hazard.”

“Parents unknowingly expose their kids to toxic chemicals by bringing home consumer products, including toys, contaminated with lead or by painting their houses with lead-based paints. Not many people are aware of lead contents in paints and their health effects. The book raises safety concerns for exposure in children due to extensive hand to mouth behavior and highlight the need for eliminating lead from paint,” she said. 

Filipino Von Hernandez of Greenpeace International said: “Color need not be associated with poison! This is the literal yet profound message that this book offers. For our children to lead truly productive and colorful lives, we have an obligation as parents and responsible citizens to ensure that their living environment is free from significant sources of toxics exposure, particularly household paints containing lead.” 

“The risk posed by lead exposure to our kids is absolutely unacceptable, especially because that risk is avoidable in the first place. Eliminating the use of lead containing paints should not only be a no-brainer as this book radiantly and evocatively puts across.  It is also the ethical thing to do!  A toxics-free environment represents a bright-colored future for our children," he emphasized.

Indonesian environmental engineer Yuyun Ismawati, Senior Advisor of Balifokus,  said: "This book is a great way to convey the important message of chemical safety to parents through their children. To be aware of the right to health and a toxics-free environment is among the basic rights that young and adult readers could learn from this book." 

Dr. E. Ulysses Dorotheo, Chairperson, Committee for Environmental Health and Ecology of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), said:  “This storybook is not just for kids but also for parents and other adults, because lead toxicity affects everyone. While we are concerned for the wellbeing of our children, many of us are like Nanay Nida in the story, completely unaware of this serious public health and safety issue, as well as the ways to address it.” 

“Thankfully, both the story and illustrations explain in a clear and simple way how we and especially our children are at risk of lead poisoning from exposure to lead in paints that are used in our homes, workplaces, classrooms, playgrounds, and toys.  The particular focus on the symptoms of lead toxicity, such as learning disabilities and behavioral changes among infants and children, is a warning signal for us to protect the future of our country,” he said.

The PMA hoped “that (the) storybook will generate more public awareness among parents, teachers, students, policy makers, and business and government leaders about the need to remove sources of lead exposure in our social environments, particularly in homes and schools.”

Children’s environmental health champions Dr. Irma Macalinao of the University of the Philippines and Prof. Scott Clark of the University of Cincinnati (Ohio, USA) also reviewed “Ang Makulay na Buhay,” providing constructive ideas on how to better communicate the hazards related to lead.
“Ang Makulay na Buhay” was produced with financial assistance from the European Union, IPEN and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.