Through a letter sent to Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista last Friday, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the city government to undertake “urgent lead hazard control measures” at QMC, the city’s premier park, and other facilities frequented by children, the sector deemed most vulnerable to lead exposure due to their frequent hand-to-mouth activities.
The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier screened 25 exercise and play equipment at QMC and detected lead in 19 of them in the range of 151 parts per million (ppm) to over 100,000 ppm, way above the US regulatory limit of 90 ppm for lead in paint.
Lead was likewise detected in the “Bawal Magkalat sa QC” anti-littering signage (79,800 ppm), “exit” signage (44,600 ppm), “picnic area” signage (1,034 ppm) and even the mayor’s “HB” insignia adorning the steel fence (15,800 ppm).
Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol found the highest levels of lead in the worn or eroded surfaces of physical fitness equipment located at the picnic area of QMC.
“Many of the yellow and green steel equipment at the picnic area show visible effects of wear and weathering such as chipping or peeling lead-based paint, particularly in the hand rails,” noted Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“This is dangerous as children could directly touch and ingest lead chips or dust from the eroded equipment,” he pointed out.
“We appeal to Mayor Bautista to initiate urgent lead hazard control measures for the health and safety of park visitors, especially the toddlers,” he pleaded.
For her part, pediatric toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center said: “Health authorities have confirmed that there is no safe level of lead exposure for kids without detrimental impact so every effort to check and stop lead pollution sources is necessary.”
“Children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and, in some cases, irreversible neurological damage,” according to the World Health Organization.
A study by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission indicates that lead used in paint on playground equipment may present a serious poisoning hazard for children under six years-old, concluding that the problem arises principally with older paint where it has deteriorated and flaked due to weather conditions, age and usage.
To prevent lead exposure among users of QMC’s fitness and play equipment, the EcoWaste Coalition requested Mayor Bautista to implement the following:
1. Block off the lead-tainted equipment, particularly those that are already worn out and with chipping paint, replace them with non-lead equipment or repaint them with a certified lead-free paint.
2. Avoid disturbing lead-containing paint to prevent the dispersal of contaminated chips, flakes or dust that children can breathe or swallow or come in contact with their skin.
3. Conduct visual inspection and lead hazard assessment of all public playgrounds in the city, as well as other government maternity and pediatric wards, day care centers and schools in the city, to identify contaminated fixtures and facilities and ensure professional remediation to ensure children’s safety.
4. Regularly monitor lead-containing equipment in good condition for chipping, flaking or weathering.
5. Check the lead levels in soil within the playground to determine if lead has built up there, especially in spots where children often gather and play.
“We further ask the QC government to make the QMC a lead-free zone and to ensure that all forms of toxic exposure inside the park, a refuge for urban dwellers, is proactively prevented,” said the EcoWaste Coalition.