Eliminate Lead Paints: Prevent Childhood and Occupational Lead Exposures

A historic gathering today of
government, industry, healthcare, academic and civil society representatives in
Quezon City saw the high-spirited launch of a multi-stakeholder effort to
eliminate lead-based paint in the Philippines. 
The activity is funded by the European Union (EU).

While some paint
companies have shifted to non-lead ingredients, the EcoWaste Coalition noted
that lead in household paints, as well as in many popular goods such as toys
and other children’s articles, remains a serious health threat to unsuspecting
consumers and to other population groups most at risk to toxic exposure such as
kids, women of child-bearing age and workers.

“Being a brain toxin, there is no
compelling reason why leaded paints should be used further inside our homes,
our schools, playgrounds, buildings, and in any articles that are being used by
our children,” said Mr. Edwin Alejo, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The EcoWaste
Coalition-led campaign is part of a seven-country “Lead Paint Elimination
Project” by the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), a global civil
society network that promotes safe chemical policies and practices to protect
human health and the environment.

The EU has
provided a grant of PHP 75 million to IPEN for its three-year project that is
concurrently being implemented in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri
Lanka, Thailand, and the Philippines.

The EU
Delegation to the Philippines was represented at the project launch by Mr.
Matthieu Penot, who provided the welcome remarks on behalf of EU Ambassador to
the Philippines H.E Guy Ledoux.  Mr.
Penot currently manages EU-funded projects in the Philippines in the fields of
Environment and Energy.

US expert Mr.
William “Bill” Menrath delivered a lecture on how to prevent childhood lead
exposure through lead paint elimination, education and abatement. Menrath is
the current Director of the Great Lakes Regional Occupational Safety and Health
Education Center and also the Training Director of the Healthy Homes Training
personalities led by Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Pia Cayetano
applauded the “historic partnership” and threw their support behind the efforts
to eradicate leaded paint, which has long been phased out in developed

“A chemical control
order that will combat lead pollution is undeniably long overdue and you have
my full support for a strong policy that will protect and uphold our people’s
constitutional right to health,” said Santiago who has filed a number of
resolutions at the Senate based on exposés made by the EcoWaste Coalition on
harmful chemicals in products, wastes and in the environment.

“Your stand against lead pollution is consistent and compatible with my own
position against this old health and environment threat.  This is why I have re-filed in the 15th
Congress the ‘Paint Hazard Reduction Act,’ which seeks to develop a national
strategy to build the infrastructure necessary to eliminate lead-based paint
hazards in all housing as expeditiously as possible,” she added.

“I impart my support
for your initiative to catalyze government-industry-civil society collaboration
to cut down and eradicate the risks from the manufacture and use of leaded
paint.  This is a very important public
health action that should be backed by everyone who seeks to halt childhood and
occupational exposure to lead, particularly from paints with added lead pigment
and drier,” stated Cayetano who heads the Senate Committee on Health.

Even the Catholic
Church did not fail to  recognize the
“inestimable benefits” of reducing childhood lead exposure, “which can cause
irreparable harm to their developing brains and unfairly limit their potentials
to live fully” as noted by Caloocan Bishop Deogracias S.
Iñiguez, Jr., Head of the Public Affairs Committee, Catholic Bishops’
Conference of the Philippines.

“Your initiative to
promote the elimination of lead in paint is, by and large, a choice to protect
and sanctify life. By choosing to phase out this chemical poison in the
production of paint, you have chosen to put a stop to a familiar source of lead
exposure, especially among children. By choosing to act against this toxic
threat to children’s brains, their health and their future, you have, in
effect, chosen to promote a culture of life and hope,” the bishop said.

In an earlier letter to
the EcoWaste Coalition, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that “lead is highly
toxic and even low levels of lead are harmful.”

“Levels as low as 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood are associated with decreased intelligence, behavior problems, reduced physical stature and growth, as well as impaired hearing,” Ona said.

“Thus, clinical toxicologists have indicated that there are no safe levels for lead exposure among children.  This fact makes banning of substances containing lead an imperative,” he emphasized.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a national environmental network of over 125 groups pursuing zero waste and chemical safety, will implement the project in the Philippines by undertaking activities intended to minimize and eliminate the manufacture, import, export, sale and use of lead-based decorative paints through a nationwide informative campaign.

The project is being carried out to reduce if not prevent human exposure to lead.  Importance is greatly given to the reduction and prevention of children’s exposure to lead.  Greater attention is given to them since studies have shown that they are the most susceptible to its adverse effects.  It is because they are at a stage where their bodies are in a developing phase and cannot tolerate even minute quantities of lead.