Campaigners Say “Get the Lead Out for Our Children’s Health” as Filipino Children Join Worldwide Action vs Lead Poisoning

More than
one hundred kids and parents today gathered at Rizal Park—the country’s premier
national park—at the launch of the weeklong global movement to protect children
from lead, a toxic chemical that can permanently damage a child’s brain even at
low doses.

Organized by the EcoWaste Coalition, an
environmental network for zero waste, chemical safety and public health, the
event also marked the release of a European Union-funded report about lead
levels in dust obtained from 21 locations in five cities in Metro Manila,
including residential homes, day-care centers and preparatory schools where
children spend much time, and might be exposed to high levels of lead.

Co-hosted by the National Parks
Development Committee, the event commenced the Philippines’ celebration of the
2nd International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action (October 19-25)
organized by the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, a joint undertaking
by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environmental

The event saw parents and kids parade
around the park, accompanied by youth drummers and campaigners brandishing a
banner that said “Get the Lead Out for Our Children’s Health.” The group then
assembled at the Children’s Playground to learn about lead poisoning through
pep talks and fun games, which highlighted the need to keep the children’s
environment safe from lead hazard.

“Our assembly today is in support of the
growing local and global action to protect children’s brains and enhance the
health conditions of all children by preventing and reducing childhood exposure
to toxic lead. Our government, the paint industry, the healthcare sector and
civil society are working together to remove lead paint in the market and help
create a conducive lead-safe environment for our children and our children’s
children,” said Jeiel Guarino, Communications and Policy Officer for the Lead
Paint Elimination Project, EcoWaste Coalition.

In a message sent to the EcoWaste
Coalition, Secretary Enrique Ona stated that “the Department of Health (DOH)
fully supports the global and local efforts to prevent and reduce maternal,
fetal and childhood exposure to lead, a chemical that has no vital use in the
human body, which can inflict
irremediable harm to the developing
brain and the central nervous system even at low level toxicity.”

“We particularly support the ongoing phase-out of lead-based paints in the
Philippine market as this will drastically reduce the risk from lead paint
chips and dust, which are recognized as major sources of children’s exposure to
lead. Eliminating preventable sources of lead exposure in our homes, schools
and communities, including toys and childcare articles, will have a huge impact
in protecting our children’s brains and their overall health and benefit the
society as a whole,” Secretary Ona said.

“Lead exposure at an early age can cause
harmful lifelong impacts on a child’s developing brain and impair rapid growth
and development, making it crucial for environmental lead hazards such as lead
paint chips, dust and soil be reduced, if not carefully eliminated, to protect
children from the adverse health effects of lead exposure,” said Dr. Bessie
Antonio, a pediatrician from the East Avenue Medical Center, who spoke at the

The World Health Organization’s report
on “Childhood Lead Poisoning” states that “these effects are untreatable and
irreversible because the human brain has little capacity for repair, causing
diminution in brain function and reduction in achievement that last throughout

The lead dust report released by
EcoWaste Coalition, entitled “Lead in Household Dust in the Philippines,”
provides examples of lead dust levels in sampled locations, and demonstrates
why the use of lead-containing decorative paints is a source of serious
concern, especially for children’s health. For instance, the study found two
preparatory schools with dust lead levels above the 40 μg/ft2 dust lead limit
in floors in housing defined by the United States Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) as a dust-lead hazard, with one prep school registering as high as
110 μg/ft2 dust lead level.

“Children are not generally exposed to
lead from new paint while the paint is still in the can or when the paint is
being newly applied to a previously unpainted or uncoated surface. However, as
paint on household surfaces chips, wears and deteriorates over time, lead
present in the deteriorating paint is released and contaminates surrounding
surfaces. In this way, lead in the paint will end up in the household dust and
soil surrounding the house,” the report said.

The report concluded with a set of
recommendations addressed to various stakeholders. In particular, the EcoWaste
Coalition urged the government to:

•             Ensure
strict compliance and enforcement of the Chemical Control Order on Lead and
Lead Compounds, issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,
which prohibits the use of lead in all types of paint beyond 90 ppm (dry
•             Establish
strong enforcement measures, including periodic monitoring, to ensure paint
companies are in compliance with the lead in paint limit and the specific
phase-out periods for leaded decorative and industrial paints.
•             Provide
incentives to paint companies to swiftly transition from lead to non-lead paint
•             Require
paint can labels with sufficient information indicating the lead content and
provide a warning of possible lead dust hazards when disturbing painted
•             Source
only lead safe paints for interiors and exteriors of public buildings and
amenities (e.g., parks and playgrounds), government-sponsored housing, schools,
day-care centers, medical and sports facilities among others.
•             Facilitate
training on lead-safe working practices when applying paint to previously
painted surfaces.

Given the high lead dust levels found in
some preparatory schools, the report further recommended that the Department of
Education, along with the DENR, the Department of Health and public interest
stakeholders, to embark on an investigative study on lead paint hazards in the
public educational system.

The EcoWaste Coalition-led campaign in
the Philippines is part of a seven-country Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project
by IPEN, a global civil society network promoting safe chemical policies and
practices to protect human health and the environment.

The European Union has provided a grant
of PHP75 million to IPEN for its three-year project that is concurrently being
carried out in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the