Watchdog Pushes for Lead-Safe Schools as Phase-Out of Leaded Architectural Paints Looms

A watchdog
group exhorted the Department of Education (DepEd) to ensure that only
lead-safe paints are used in decorating all school buildings nationwide as the
yearly “Brigada Eskwela” nears.  

Through a letter sent to Education Secretary Armin Luistro, the EcoWaste
Coalition urged DepEd to issue a Department Order that will make it obligatory
for schools to use only lead-safe paints.
“We seek Secretary Luistro’s support to reduce, if not eliminate, major sources
of lead pollution in children’s environment
such as lead-containing paint and dust. 
Lead is hazardous to health, it is particularly harmful for a child’s
developing brain and body,” Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
The group’s vigorous drive towards lead-safe schools is in anticipation of the
phase-out of lead-containing architectural, decorative and household paints by
1 January 2017 as per Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
Administrative Order 2013-24.
“While the phase-out will only take effect in January next year, we find it
extremely important that all schools take the deliberate decision now not to
use lead-containing paints and ensure a lead-safe school environment for healthy
and bright children,” Lucero said. 
“We hope that the directive will be released soon to serve as guidance for the
schools and their community of donors and supporters for the Brigada Eskwela on
May 30 to June 4,” she added.

The requested Department Order will be in sync with DepEd’s mission of promoting
a child-friendly school environment where students can obtain quality basic
education they deserve, as well as with the 15-point “Human Rights Agenda for
Chemical Safety” adopted by the Commission on Human Rights,” the EcoWaste
Coalition pointed out.

For the group, the Department Order should
make it mandatory for schools to use only lead-safe coatings for painting
and/or repainting school structures and fixtures (e.g., buildings, classrooms,
offices, windows, doors and gates), amenities (e.g., libraries, laboratories,
canteens, clinics, covered courts and playgrounds),  furniture (e.g., chairs, tables and cabinets)
and learning materials (e.g., blackboards and teaching aids, including school
supplies and toys)  used in all
elementary and secondary educational institutions.

It should also apply to paints directly
procured by the school, as well as those sourced by other means such as through
individual, group, corporate or local government donations,” the group

The EcoWaste Coalition noted that Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines, Inc. and
Davies Paints Philippines, Inc. have successfully transitioned to non-lead
paint production, while other companies are on their way to switching to
non-lead additives for oil-based (enamel) paints in compliance with DENR A.O.
It added that water-based paints, which are extensively available in the
market, do not contain lead additives.

Aside from directly protecting vulnerable children from being exposed to lead
early in life, the proposed policy will also make the maintenance, repair and
renovation of painted surfaces simpler and less hazardous and avoid the
exorbitant costs associated with lead paint abatement and removal, as well as
reduce the hazardous content of construction debris, the EcoWaste Coalition explained.
Citing information from the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (a joint
initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Health
Organization), the group pointed out that young children may inhale or ingest
lead-containing paint chips, dust or soil as lead paint deteriorates over time.
The WHO has stated “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered
to be safe,” stressing that “childhood lead poisoning can have lifelong health
impacts, including: learning disabilities, anemia, and disorders in
coordination, visual, spatial and language skills.”

Lead is one of the “ten chemicals of
major public health concern,” according to WHO.