A toxic watchdog has called for a pollution-free cleanup and repair of school facilities as the Department of Education (DepEd) gears up for the annual back-to-school cleanup by “Brigada Eskwela” volunteers.
The EcoWaste Coalition issued the reminder as parents, students and other participants get ready for the DepEd-initiated “National Schools Maintenance Week” from May 23 to 28. “We request concerned citizens to support the cleanup and repair of our classrooms, libraries, canteens and other school amenities such as activity areas and waiting sheds in a way that will not cause further pollution,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition. “Our admirable desire to make our schools spick and span in time for the resumption of classes need not result to the creation or release of harmful pollutants that can jeopardize our children’s health,” he added. The open burning of discards, the unsafe removal of lead paint and the application of lead-added paint during the cleanup drive are polluting activities that must be avoided, the EcoWaste Coalition said. Open burning, a prohibited act under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, can pollute the surroundings with dozens of nasty pollutants such as air-borne particulate matter and dioxin, a proven human carcinogen, the group warned. While sanding or scraping lead paint from flaking doors, walls, ceilings and windows will scatter dust containing lead, a neurotoxin that attacks the brain and the nervous system, cautioned the group. Eating or inhaling lead-laden paint chips and dust, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized, can expose children to lead and cause irreparable health problems. A health study released in 2006 found 21% of children tested in the Visayas for blood lead levels (BLL) with lead up to 20 micrograms per deciliter in their blood, which exceeds the “allowable limit” of 10 mcg/dcl.
The study conducted by University of the Philippines health economist Dr. Orville Solon and other local and international collaborators identified paint chips as one of the “multiple possible sources of lead exposure” for the said children.
Citing information from the World Health Organization (WHO), the EcoWaste Coalition warned that lead poisoning can cause serious health problems, especially to the developing brains of fetuses and young children and to pregnant women.
According to the WHO, “too much lead can damage the nervous and reproductive systems and the kidneys, and can cause high blood pressure and anemia. Lead accumulates in the bones and lead poisoning may be diagnosed from a blue line around the gums.”
“Lead interferes with the metabolism of calcium and Vitamin D. High blood lead levels in children can cause consequences which may be irreversible, including learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and mental retardation. At very high levels, lead can cause convulsions, coma and death,” said the WHO.
To minimize children’s exposure to lead-containing paint and dust, the EcoWaste Coalition has called upon Brigada Eskwela organizers, volunteers and donors to shun lead-dispersing cleanup practices, and to ensure that school facilities are only painted with certified lead-free paint. -end-