Friday, May 13, 2011

Group calls for eco-friendly "Brigada Eskwela" cleanup drive

Less than a month before the new schoolyear starts, an environmental group appealed to teachers and students to ensure an eco-friendly “Brigada Eskwela" cleanup drive.

The EcoWaste Coalition issued the reminder in time for the Department of Education’s “National Schools Maintenance Week" from May 23 to 28.

“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," EcoWaste president Roy Alvarez said in an entry on the group’s blog.

Paints containing lead

To minimize children’s exposure to paints containing the chemical "lead," Eco Waste urged “Brigada Eskwela" organizers and volunteers to avoid "lead-dispersing activities" and to use only certified lead-free paint.

The group cited a 2006 health study which found that 21 percent of children tested in the Visayas for blood lead levels (BLL) had lead up to 20 micrograms per deciliter in their blood, exceeding 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.

The group also warned against sanding or scraping lead paint from flaking doors, walls, ceilings and windows because it will scatter dust containing lead, a neurotoxin that attacks the brain and the nervous system.

Eating or inhaling lead-laden paint chips and dust can expose children to lead and cause irreparable health problems, it said.

The World Health Organization (WHO), says lead poisoning can cause serious health problems, especially to the developing brains of fetuses and young children and to pregnant women.

WHO had warned “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," it added.

According to WHO, high levels of lead in a child can cause irreversible learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and mental retardation.

“At very high levels, lead can cause convulsions, coma and death," said the WHO.

Open burning

EcoWaste particularly warned against the open burning of discards, the unsafe removal of lead paint and the application of lead-added paint during the cleanup drive.

Open burning, the group said, is a prohibited act under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act because it can release airborne pollutants, including the cancer-causing chemical "dioxin."


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