A waste and pollution watch group exhorted the country’s public elementary and secondary schools to make lead safety part of the annual Brigada Eskwela on May 28 to June 2.
In line with Department Order No. 4 issued by Education Secretary Leonor Briones in January 2017, the EcoWaste Coalition urged school heads to ensure full compliance to the “mandatory use of lead-safe paints in schools.”
DepEd issued the said order at the request of the EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for lead-free school, to prevent and control children’s exposure to lead through the ingestion of lead-contaminated paint chip, dust and soil in the school environment.
In December 2017, Briones issued Department Order No. 64 detailing the minimum performance standards and specifications for DepEd school buildings. “Paints materials must be independently certified lead-safe paints/coatings,” according to the said order.
“We laud Education Secretary Briones for her steadfast commitment to promote a lead-safe school environment for Filipino children as contained in Department Orders 4 and 64, series of 2017. Strict compliance to these orders is crucial to stop the entry and use of lead-containing architectural, decorative and household (ADH) paints in all schools following the completion of the three-year phase-out for such paints last December 2016,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“The effective enforcement of these orders will also help in reducing the creation and dispersion of lead-tainted paint chip, dust and soil from the Brigada Eskwela school cleanup and renovation activities that children may ingest or inhale,” he added.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “the most common lead hazards in schools are lead-based paint, lead dust and contaminated soil.”
Exposure to lead can permanently damage the brain and the central nervous system, impair growth and development, and cause learning and behavioral problems, the EcoWaste Coalition warned.
“As there is no safe threshold for lead exposure, we need to pay serious attention on eliminating preventable lead pollution sources such as lead-containing paints in our homes, schools and communities,” Dizon said.
“D.O. 4-2017 is by far the most important lead poisoning prevention directive made by the DepEd complementing the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,” he said.
According to D.O. 4-2017, the use of independently certified lead-safe paints/coatings is mandatory to all painting and/or repainting works of school facilities, furniture, fixtures, learning materials and tools and equipment.
The said D.O. 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.
To drum up awareness and compliance to the ban on lead-containing ADH paints, the EcoWaste Coalition will distribute posters to Metro Manila schools announcing the phase-out of such paints.
During the week of the Brigada Eskwela, the EcoWaste Coalition will deploy a roving team targeting Quezon City schools to promote compliance to D.O. 4-2017