Philippines Marks International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action (Groups Back Phase-Out of Lead Paints to Reduce Lead Exposure among Children)

Concerned groups from the public and
private sectors  have come together to
promote awareness and action to combat childhood lead exposure, which
contributes to approximately 600,000 new cases per year of kids with
intellectual disabilities across the globe.

In observance of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action
(ILPPWA) on October 25 to 31, an annual campaign spearheaded by the United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO),
government, industry and civil society organizations jointly backed the
scheduled phase-out of lead paints in the country as an essential step for a
healthy future.

To mark the occasion, some 500 students, parents and teachers of Masambong
Elementary School today participated in an interactive awareness-raising
program organized by the EcoWaste Coalition, a civil society partner of the Global
Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, a joint UNEP-WHO initiative.

Dr. Annabelle Sinlao, lecturer at Manila Central University College of Medicine
and resource person of Health Care Without Harm discussed the issue with the
young audience, while Dr. Luis Gatmaitan, author of the children’s storybook
“Ang Makulay na Bahay” (The Colorful House) read the story in tandem with celebrity
Posh Develos.

“Through this event, we affirm our commitment to work in partnership with all
sectors to ensure full compliance to the national phase-out policy for lead
paints, indisputably an environmental and health milestone of the Aquino presidency,”
said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

As per the “Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds” (CCO) issued by
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J.P.
Paje in December 2013, lead-containing decorative paints would be phased out by
December 2016 and lead-containing industrial paints by December 2019.

“As there is no known
level of lead exposure that is considered safe for any child, let us be vigilant and support efforts to
make the Philippines meet the global and local goal of eliminating lead paint,”
stated Assistant DENR Secretary
Juan Miguel Cuna, who is also the concurrent Director of the Environmental
Management Bureau.     

“We hope that the phase out of leaded paints in due time will contribute to
making our children’s environment safe from lead, he added.  
Vergel Dyoco, Chairman of the Technical Committee of the Philippine Association
of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM), assured that: “We are moving towards
lead-safe paint production in line with the government’s policy that was
crafted in a collaborative way with input from the PAPM, EcoWaste Coalition and
IPEN, and we expect this transition process to evolve further as the phase-out
target nears.”

Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, Chairman of the Committee on Environmental Health and
Ecology of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), said:  “We join
the efforts of the EcoWaste Coalition and its partners to raise community
awareness on the dangers of lead exposure through lead paint and dust and the
need for concerted action to eliminate sources of lead in children’s
environment, including lead-containing paints and toys.”

“As prevention is better than cure, the PMA calls on all concerned sectors to
pursue policies and measures that will prevent and reduce lead pollution at
source such as by effectively enforcing the agreed phase-out for lead-added
paints,” he said.

Information compiled by the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), a
global civil society network promoting safe chemicals policies and practices, indicates
that “lead exposure in children impairs the developing brain and causes
neurological deficits.”

“It is associated with decreased intelligence as measured by IQ tests, reduced
school performance, increased violent behavior and incarceration rates,
increased cases of mental retardation, and decreased labor productivity as
measured by lifelong earning potential,” IPEN, which includes the EcoWaste
Coalition, said.  

Aside from lead in paint and dust, the other major sources of lead in
children’s environment include lead in products such as cosmetics and toys,
lead in electronic waste and lead released by incineration of lead-containing
waste.  Lead pollution from the informal recycling of used lead-acid batteries
is another common source.

Ingestion and inhalation are the major routes of lead exposure for both
children and adults.

To reduce children’s exposure to lead in paint and dust, the EcoWaste
Coalition reminded the public, particularly the parents, to observe the following health tips:

1. Choose and use lead-safe paints, and handle surfaces painted with lead very
carefully to prevent chipping paint and dust from scattering.  
2. Keep the areas where your children play as clean and dust-free as possible as
ordinary dirt and dust may contain lead. Wet-mop the floors, and wet-wipe the
window frames and sills and other surfaces.
3. Make sure your child does not chew on anything covered with lead paint such
as painted cribs, playpens, toys or window sills.
4. Keep children from eating dirt and make sure they wash their hands after
playing and before eating.
5. Wash pacifiers, teethers, bottles and eating utensils after they fall on the
6. Choose only lead-safe toys for your
kids, and wash toys and stuffed animals regularly.

“Children can swallow lead or breathe lead
contaminated dust if they play in places with abundant dust or dirt and then
put their fingers or toys in their mouths, or if they eat without washing their
hands first,” the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated.