Watchdog Urges Schools to Take DepEd’s Directive on Lead-Free Paints to Heart

Photo Courtesy of Boy Santos

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution
watch group, today lauded the Department of Education (DepEd) for acting on its
request to ensure that only lead-safe paints will be used in all schools during
the Brigada Eskwela next week and beyond.

On Tuesday, Education Secretary Armin Luistro issued DepEd Memorandum No. 85,
series of 2016 stating “the use of lead-free paints in schools must be observed
at all times, especially during the conduct of activities related to Brigada
Eskwela and other preparations for the opening of classes.”

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier requested Luistro to issue a directive that
will make it mandatory for schools to use only lead-safe coatings for painting
school facilities and amenities.

“We urge school principals, teachers and all Brigada Eskwela supporters to take
DepEd’s directive to heart as this will help in preventing childhood lead
exposure through the ingestion and inhalation of lead-containing paint, dust
and soil,” stated Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Please specify to your benefactors to donate paints with no added lead that
are safe to use for school interiors, exteriors, chairs and tables,” she

“It is our shared responsibility to remove preventable sources of lead exposure
in our children’s surroundings such as lead-containing paints,” she added,
stressing “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe” as
stated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The group likewise cautioned Brigada Eskwela participants against disturbing
old paints that might contain lead, emphasizing that dry sanding or scraping
can generate huge quantities of lead dust that is detrimental to human health.

Citing information from the Global Alliance to
Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP), the DepEd directive warned  that “childhood
lead poisoning can have lifelong health impacts, including learning
disabilities, anemia and disorders in coordination, visual, spatial and
language skills.”

GAELP, a cooperative venture of the WHO and the United Nations Environment
Programme, includes the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR),
the EcoWaste Coalition and the Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines, Inc. among
its partners.

The EcoWaste Coalition is the civil society partner of the DENR and the
Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) in promoting effective
compliance to the country’s phase-out deadlines for leaded-decorative paints by
January 2017 and leaded-industrial paints by January 2019.

On Monday, members of the EcoWaste Coalition will participate in the Brigada
Eskwela activities at Sto. Cristo Elementary School in Bago Bantay, Quezon City
to help with the school repair and maintenance, as well as to drum up support
for a lead-safe school environment.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition thanked Senators Chiz Escudero, Loren Legarda
and Grace Poe and incoming Senators Risa Hontiveros and Migz Zubiri who, along
with over 100 health professionals, educators, environmentalists, religious
leaders and  trade unionists, have supported the group’s call for Luistro
“to declare the entire educational system as a lead-free zone by adopting a
lead-safe paint procurement policy and by carefully addressing lead paint

In her letter to Luistro, Legarda pointed out that “various studies have shown
that lead exposure is highly detrimental to the health and early development of
young children and could possibly result in permanent and irreversible

“In this regard, I join the EcoWaste Coalition’s call to adopt a lead-free
procurement policy for all materials to be used in the construction and
maintenance of educational institutions,” she said.

DENR Assistant Secretary Juan Miguel
Cuna, who is concurrent Director of the Environmental Management Bureau, also
wrote to Luistro conveying the same message.

Some of the
country’s foremost health organizations have likewise backed the call for a
lead-safe school environment, including the Philippine Medical
Association – Committee on Environmental Health and Ecology, Child Neurology
Society of the Philippines, Philippine Academy of Family Physicians,
 Philippine Pediatric Society,  Philippine Society for Developmental
and Behavioral Pediatrics and the Philippine Society of Clinical and
Occupational Toxicology.