A public interest group promoting safe chemicals policies and practices commended two national government agencies for their stance to protect Filipino children from toxic lead.
The EcoWaste Coalition lauded the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Health (DOH) as stakeholders gather tomorrow, December 7, “to discuss the implementation of the phase-out of lead in architectural paints in 2016” in line with the DENR Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Lead and Lead Compounds.
“We laud the DENR and the DOH for reiterating their commitment to protect our children from being exposed to lead, a health-damaging chemical linked to intellectual deficiencies and mental retardation, and for taking action to cut avoidable sources of exposure such as lead-added paints,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
Through messages issued to mark the recently-held International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action, Health Secretary Janette Garin and Environment Assistant Secretary Juan Miguel Cuna jointly stressed the importance of removing avoidable sources of lead exposure among children.
Both officials expressed optimism that the scheduled phase-out of lead paints under the said CCO will contribute to reduce childhood exposure through the ingestion or inhalation of lead in paint and dust.
The CCO, signed by Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje in December 2013, sets a threshold limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for lead in paint, as well as provides for the phase-out by 2016 of leaded decorative paints and by 2019 for leaded industrial paints.
“These efforts will undeniably help in reducing preventable sources of lead exposure in our children’s environment and contribute to better and improved health conditions for them,” said Garin.
“We in the health sector, together with the DENR, the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers and the EcoWaste Coalition are united in promoting the phase-out of lead-containing paints in accordance with the government’s CCO,” she declared.
Garin noted that phasing out lead paint “is an important step and contribution in the attainment of the government’s ‘Kalusugang Pangkahalatan’ (Universal Health Care) program and the United Nations’ newly-adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals, particularly goal #3, which seeks to ‘ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’.”
“Hand in hand, all sectors should extend their full support in the phase-out of lead-containing paints and together create a toxics-free environment where our children can safely live, play, learn and develop to their full potential,” she said.
Cuna, who is concurrent Director of the Environmental Management Bureau, stated that “as there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe for any child, let us be vigilant and support efforts to make the Philippines meet the global goal of eliminating lead paint.”
Cuna led the Philippine delegation at the fourth International Conference on Chemicals Management organized by the United Nations Environment Programme, which affirmed the global phase-out of lead paint by 2020.
“The phase-out of lead-based paints in the Philippine market is on-going and we are targeting to drastically reduce the risk from lead paint chips and dust, which are recognized as major sources of children’s exposure to lead,” he said.
“Since lead is a toxic substance, the DENR regulation covers not only the production process, but starts at the importation of the chemical to transport, recycling and even up to disposal of lead-containing wastes,” he explained.
“It also covers not only the manufacturers or industrial users but also the importers, distributors, recyclers, as well as the waste service providers like the transporters, waste treaters and disposers,” he added.
To ensure proper implementation of the new policy, the DENR is conducting capability building and continuous consultations and discussions with its partner agencies under the Departments of Health, Trade and Industry, and Finance; as well as the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers, the Ecological Waste Coalition, and International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) Philippines.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer significant permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system. Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage. Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight.”