EcoWaste Coalition Pushes For Toxic-Free Brigada Eskwela to Avoid Waste and Pollution

An environmental and health watch group reminded participants for the week-long Brigada Eskwela that will commence on May 15 to stick to eco-friendly activities so as not to pollute the surroundings and endanger human health.

The EcoWaste Coalition reiterated that the school repair, renovation and maintenance activities should not add to garbage and pollution woes besetting many of our neighborhoods and communities.

“We appeal to all the Brigada Eskwela participants to refrain from acts like open trash burning, breaking busted fluorescent lamps or haphazardly removing lead-containing paints and coatings, which will only result in chemical pollution and cause adverse health effects,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Open burning generates minuscule toxins that can trigger headaches, bring about eye, throat and skin irritation, trigger asthma and heart attacks, and even lead to cancers and reproductive abnormalities in the long term, the group explained.

Throwing spent fluorescent lamps along with regular discards will cause their glass tubing to break and release the health-damaging mercury inside the tube in the form of vapor, it said.

Disturbing surfaces covered with lead-containing paints will generate and disperse paint chips and dust containing lead, which humans, especially young children, can ingest or inhale, it further said. 

Both mercury and lead are classified as a neurotoxin or a poisonous substance that acts on the brain and the central nervous system and disrupts the normal function of nerve cells.  These chemicals are highly toxic for children, pregnant women and workers. 

For a toxic-free Brigada Eskwela, the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with 15-point list of practical reminders that will prevent and reduce waste and pollution during the cleanup and renovation activities:

1.  Observe the proper segregation of discards at source to facilitate their recycling or composting, and to minimize the volume of garbage for disposal.

2.  Do not set trash on fire to prevent the generation of environmental pollutants such as fine particles, heavy metals and dioxins.

3.  Compost biodegradable discards such as yard trimmings to produce natural fertilizer or soil enhancer for the school garden.

4.  Clean up the school’s Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), also known as Ecology Center, including the containers or segregators for properly-labeled recyclable and compostable discards.

5.  Handle busted fluorescent lamps with care to prevent mercury spill; do not mix such lamps with ordinary trash, and properly store and dispose of them as hazardous waste.

6.  Choose safer cleaning agents and refrain from using hazardous substances that are corrosive to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract such as oxalic and muriatic acid.

7.  Use only certified lead-safe paints for school interiors, exteriors, furniture and fixtures, gymnasium, play equipment and other school amenities. 

8.  Keep children and pregnant women out of the work area (lead is very hazardous to developing fetuses).

9.  Refrain from dry sanding or dry scraping painted surfaces that might contain lead so as not to disperse lead dust into the surroundings.  

10.  Clean up paint chips immediately.

11.  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.

12. Wash hands properly with soap and water before meals and after the work is done.

13. After a repainting job, change clothes before going home, set aside in a sealed reusable bag and wash separately.

14.  Clean or remove shoes and slippers before entering your home to avoid bringing in soil that may contain lead into the house.

15.  Keep the school premises smoke-free by not smoking or vaping.

The EcoWaste Coalition reiterated that the observance of the above tips conforms with key policies and requirements such as R.A. 9003 (the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act), R.A. 6969 (the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Act),  R.A. 9211 (the Tobacco Regulation Act), DENR A.O. 2013-24 (Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds), DepEd D.O. 04-2017 (Mandatory Use of Lead-Safe Paints in Schools) and DepEd DO 73-2010 (Smoking Ban in Public Schools).