Brigada Eskwela Cautioned on “Toxic” Makeover of Schools

As the Brigada Eskwela goes in full swing in preparation for the school re-opening, a waste and pollution watchdog reminded volunteers to be cautious of possible toxic exposure from lead in paint, chips and dust during the school clean up activities.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-governmental group campaigning for the elimination of lead in paint, called the attention of the Department of Education and its Brigada Eskwela collaborators from the private and public sectors to keep school premises safe from lead pollution.

It will be recalled that President-apparent Noynoy Aquino and six other presidentiables, in a green survey conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace prior to the May 10 polls, expressed support for the elimination of lead, a toxic metal, in paint to promote the health and safety of Filipino children.

The EcoWaste Coallition is particularly concerned with the improper removal of old leaded paint from school walls, doors and windows, and the use of lead paint in repainting efforts.
“The improper scraping, sanding or burning of leaded paint can expose the Brigada Eskwela volunteers and the students themselves to toxic pollutants,” said Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition.
“While repainting schools with leaded paint can, in time, pose hazards to children’s health from chipping or flaking surfaces,” he added.
“Let us aim for a non-toxic makeover of our schools so that our children can benefit from a clean, healthy and safe environment that they are entitled to,” Calonzo stated.
Citing information from the US Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), the EcoWaste Coalition warned that lead exposure can lead to delays in physical and mental development, lower IQ levels, shortened attention spans, and increased behavioral problems among children.
According to the UN-backed Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paints (an international partnership that will be meeting in Geneva next week on May 26-28), “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.”
Health experts explain that children are more in danger of being exposed to lead because the toxic substance is easily absorbed by their still developing bodies. Their budding tissues and organs are likewise more sensitive to the harmful effects of lead. Also, their tendency to explore their surroundings and put their fingers and objects into their mouths make children more prone to toxic exposure.
To reduce lead pollution during the back-to-school clean up, leaded paint in good condition should be left undisturbed and should not be sanded or burned off.
For schools that are planning to repaint classrooms and other school facilities, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends the use of water-based plastic paints, which generally have low lead contents.
For private companies and other charitable entities that are planning to sponsor school repainting jobs, the EcoWaste Coalition urges them to exercise utmost social responsibility and refrain from donating paint materials that are not lead-free.
A global testing in 2009 of decorative paints involving the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and the International POPs Elimination Network found 40% of the 25 samples from Philippines with lead concentrations way beyond the US threshold of 90 parts per million (ppm), with one sample registering a staggering lead level of 189,163.5 ppm. No plastic paint sample had lead concentration higher than 90 ppm.
To see the paint sampling report, please refer to:
EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 329, Eagle Court Condominium
Matalino St., Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 441-1846