THREE government agencies, together with the European Union, will launch today (Tuesday) a nationwide campaign to protect Filipino school children from exposure to lead and mercury, two heavy metals which are known to be highly toxic to the developing brain and nervous system.
Dubbed as the “Lead and Mercury-Safe Schools for Bright and Healthy Kids,” Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said that the interagency and multi-stakeholder campaign aims to protect primary school students all over the country from being exposed to these toxic substances.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will launch the program
at the Commonwealth Elementary School in Quezon City, which was the regional champion in the elementary school category of the DENR’s National Search for Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Schools in 2011 and 2013, and national champion in the same category for the Meralco Energy Leadership Awards.
Paje will be joined at the launch by Education Secretary Armin Luistro and Health Undersecretary Eric Tayag.
They will sign a so-called Solidarity Statement where they commit to take concrete steps to protect school children from the hazards of lead and mercury exposure, such as promoting the use of lead-safe paint and switching to mercury-free alternatives.
EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux and representatives of the Eco-Waste Coalition and the
International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), a global network of more than 700 non-government organizations whose common objective is to eliminate persistent organic pollutants or POPs, will also take part in the event.
Paje underscored the need for schools to manage the use of lead and other harmful chemicals.
“Chemical safety and security must be a priority of the schools. Administrators, supervisors, teachers and students alike must work together to ensure that these chemicals are handled with precaution and care,” he said.
Lead and mercury are toxic heavy metals that are regulated by the DENR. Exposure to them has been found to cause irreversible neurological damage among children, leading to a decrease in intelligence and an increase in violent behavior.
Besides promoting consciousness on the use of lead and mercury-safe alternatives within the education sector, the program also aims to bring attention to government policies on these chemicals.
Last year, Paje issued DENR Administrative Order No. 2013-24 or the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.
The directive prohibits the use of lead and its compounds in locally-produced consumer products, from manufacture to packaging, importation, sale, distribution and disposal. It also reinforces the ban on the use of lead as a fuel additive and sets a standard content of lead in locally produced paint.