An environmental watchdog group has enjoined the public to be mindful of children’s health and safety when buying and using paints for next week’s Brigada Eskwela school repair and maintenance week.
The EcoWaste Coalition emphasized the importance of procuring lead-safe paints for decorating school facilities, amenities, furniture and fixtures in line with the Department of Education (DepEd) Department Order 4, series of 2017.
The said order issued by Education Secretary Leonor Briones last January 18 states that “the use of only lead-safe coatings or paints shall be mandatory to all pre-school, elementary and secondary schools.”
“The use of lead-safe paints shall reduce children’s exposure to toxic lead via lead-containing paint and dust, thus, avoiding health impacts including learning disabilities, anemia and disorders in coordination, visual, spatial, and language skills,” the order said.
“The enforcement of the DepEd’s directive will go a long way in reducing lead paint hazards in our schools. For the health and safety of our children, we request our principals, teachers, parent leaders, donors and volunteers to join hands in ensuring that the directive is adhered to,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“Paint consumers now have access to a wider range of lead-safe decorative paints as more manufacturers have completed their switch to non-lead paint formulations,” he said.
To guide the Brigada Eskwela participants in the selection of paints that are suitable and permitted for school purposes, the EcoWaste Coalition put forward the following suggestions:
1. Use water-based or latex decorative paints as much as possible as such paints are generally free of lead-based additives.
2. If oil-based or enamel decorative paints are needed, especially for metal works, look for paints with the Lead Safe Paint® mark on the label, or find other independently certified products with no added lead.
Aside from directing the mandatory use of lead-safe paints, DepEd D.O. 4, s.2017 also stressed the importance of safely managing lead-coated surfaces during renovation activities “to prevent the generation and dispersal of lead-containing dust that children may ingest or inhale.”
To prevent the spread of lead dust, the EcoWaste Coalition reminded Brigada Eskwela participants not to disturb lead-coated surfaces by dry scraping or dry sanding as these methods can scatter and contaminate the surroundings with lead dust.
“Paint workers and volunteers should take precautions to control lead exposure on the job and to avoid bringing home lead dust on their clothes and shoes,” the group said.
To assist the authorities in promoting adherence to the policy, the EcoWaste Coalition will go school hopping this week to distribute copies of DepEd A.O. 4, as well as the group’s newly-printed “Lead-Free School” poster.