Paints containing toxic levels of lead were used in refurbishing armchairs in certain public schools, environmentalist group Ecowaste Coalition said on Saturday.
Ecowaste appealed to paint companies to shift to non-lead paint production and assure the public that their products are safe to use in places where children live, learn and play.
The group came up with the appeal after repainting armchairs that were freshly coated with paints containing dangerous levels of lead during a Brigada Eskwela school activity in Tondo, Manila.
Members of Ecowaste went to Isabelo de los Reyes Elementary School last Friday to repaint 50 armchairs that were painted with lead-laden chemicals. The group repainted the armchairs with lead-free enamel.
Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the group detected lead reaching 91,300 parts per million (ppm) in the orange Triton paint, way above the 90 ppm maximum limit under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order 2013-24, also known as the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.
A yellow quick drying enamel paint used in some other armchairs was also found to contain high concentrations of lead at 65,100 ppm.
Laboratory tests commissioned by Ecowaste in 2012 and 2014 as part of its campaign to eliminate lead paint found dangerously high concentrations of lead in orange and yellow paints with one sample having 156,000 ppm total lead.
“We are deeply upset by the continued production and sale of highly leaded paints that are finding their way into the school system in breach of the government’s lead-free paint policy in schools,” said Thony Dizon, coordinator of Ecowaste Project Protect.
Department of Education Memorandum No. 85, Series of 2016 issued last May 24 directed schools to use lead-free paints “at all times,” particularly during the Brigada Eskwela activities.
“Repainting the armchairs with a lead-free paint, we admit, is a temporary remedy. Sooner or later, the paint coatings, including the leaded paint underneath, will come off and create a lead hazard requiring immediate attention,” Dizon said.
“We therefore urge the national and local government agencies to undertake enduring and holistic interventions that will protect our school children as well as their teachers against lead exposure,” he added.
DepEd, for instance, should conduct an inventory of paints used in this year’s Brigada Eskwela and evaluate the effectiveness of implementation of the department’s lead-free paint directive in the country’s public schools.
Children’s developing brains are permanently damaged by exposure to lead, the group said, adding that even at very low exposures, lead can cause learning disabilities, lower IQ, inattentiveness, poor impulse control and aggressive behavior.
The World Health Organization has warned “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.”
“With only few months remaining before the scheduled phaseout of leaded architectural, decorative and household paints on Jan. 1, 2017, we appeal to paint manufacturers to stop producing lead-added paints and for paint stores not to stock up on such paints,” Dizon said.
Ecowaste urged paint makers to participate in a third party certification program that will verify and certify that their products are safe from lead and lead compounds.
“This will help consumers identify safer paints and guide them in making informed choices that will minimize exposures to toxic lead among children and adults, including the painters,” the group said.