Advocacy Chemical Safety Environment Lead Paint Toxic Products

Workers reminded not to bring home toxic lead dust for the health of their children and families

22 October 2018, Quezon City.  We need to protect our children, women and workers from lead exposure.

This was the message that resonated with over 150 people who have gathered at the Quezon Memorial Circle today in observance of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (ILPPW).

Held every last week of October under the auspices of the UN-backed Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, the ILPPW raises awareness and promotes actions to address the health effects of lead exposure, especially for children and other vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and laborers.

To mark the occasion, the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) and the EcoWaste Coalition jointly organized a “Workers’ Skillshare on Lead Paint Hazard Control” that drew the active participation of painters and community members from various parts of Metro Manila.

The groups emphasized the need for workers’ education on lead-safe work practices as lead in paint can be released into the environment during repair, repainting, removal, renovation and demolition activities.

“Through this initiative, we hope to equip our workers with life-saving techniques that can help in reducing occupational exposure to lead-contaminated dust, which can pose serious health risks to workers and even to their families,” said Vergel Dyoco, Technical Committee Chairman, PAPM and Technical Service Department Manager, Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines, Inc.

“Knowledge of lead-safe work practices will ensure that workers and their customers are protected from lead hazards that could be generated from renovating homes, schools, offices and facilities. Dangerous amounts of lead dust can be created when lead painted surfaces are disturbed,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

For his part, Dr. Erle Castillo, toxicologist at Medical Center Manila and member of the Philippine Society for Clinical and Occupational Toxicology, explained: “Lead gets into the body when lead dust is ingested or inhaled.  Workers may swallow or breathe lead dust when they disturb lead painted surfaces such as by dry sanding or scraping.  Studies have shown that renovation activities, especially if conducted without precautions, can result in increased risk of elevated lead levels among children.”

Castillo emphasized that lead is toxic and can have adverse effects on human health, including damage to the brain and the central nervous system, developmental delays, learning difficulties and behavioral problems in children.  In adults, lead exposure can bring about joint and muscle pain, high blood pressure, memory loss, infertility in women and men, and miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant women, he said.

Speaking at the event, Quezon City Councilor Elizabeth Delarmente noted the relevance of popularizing lead-safe work practices as the country moves toward the complete phase out of lead-containing paints by 2020.

“I congratulate the EcoWaste Coalition and the PAPM for this joint initiative to train our painters on lead-safe work practices.  As a woman and as a mother, I find it very important for our workers not to take lead home to protect our families, especially the children, from being exposed to lead in dust,” she said.

Delarmente is the principal author of Quezon City Ordinance No. 2739 requiring the mandatory procurement and use of lead-safe paints in construction, maintenance and renovation projects and activities of Quezon City.

The PAPM, with support from the EcoWaste Coalition, has developed in 2012 its “Guidelines for the Evaluation and Control of Lead-Based Paint Hazards” to guide workers for the safe removal of old paints that might contain lead compounds.

In addition to using only lead-safe paints, the groups recommended these steps to prevent and reduce lead hazards in renovation activities:

  1. Workers should wear protective clothing.
  2. Control and contain the dust during work.
  3. Don’t blast, burn, dry sand, dry scrape, and use power tools without HEPA* vacuum attachment.
  4. Post warning signs.
  5. Residents, tenants and pets should stay away from the work area.
  6. No eating, drinking or smoking in the work area.
  7. Wash face and hands frequently, at the end of each shift and before eating.
  8. Clean up the work area thoroughly.
  9. Place working clothes, shoes and tools in sealed bag; wash and clean them separately.
  10. Don’t hug your family until you get clean!

Among those who joined the skillshare in commemoration of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week were the officers and staff of the EcoWaste Coalition and PAPM, Buklod Tao, Piglas Kababaihan, ROTCHNA Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Quezon City Barangay Project 6, Quezon City Environmental Protection and Waste Management Department, Quezon City Parks Development and Administration Department, Sagip Pasig Movement, Samahan ng mga Nangangalakal ng Scrap sa Capulong, San Vicente Elementary School, and several community-based groups.

* HEPA: High-efficiency particulate air