By Chito Chavez
With the start of this year’s “Brigada Eskwela,’’ environmental group EcoWaste Coalition urged the concerned schools to adhere to the government’s health policies in promoting a conducive learning environment for children.
On Monday’s launch of the bayanihan-inspired Brigada Eskwela, the Balingasa Elementary School in Quezon City teamed up with Sycwin Coating & Wires, Inc. and the EcoWaste Coalition in promoting compliance to policy issuances by the Department of Education (DepEd) in relation to paint and waste.
“With the active support of our parents, teachers, and students, as well as partners in the private and public sectors, we hope to make our Brigada Eskwela this year more eco-friendly with the use of lead-safe paints and the observance of ecological waste management in line with DepEd policies,” said Nancy Annie de la Paz, principal of the Balingasa Elementary School.
Department Order No. 4, Series of 2017 requires the “mandatory use of lead-safe paints in schools,” while Department Order No. 64, also issued in 2017, specifies the minimum performance standards and specifications for DepEd school buildings, including “paint materials must be independently certified lead-safe paints/coatings.”
Department Order No. 5, Series of 2014, also enjoins schools, among other things, to conduct waste prevention and reduction activities such as enforcing the ban on littering and burning of trash consistent with Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
“The mandatory use of lead safe paints in schools has to be strictly observed to ensure a healthy environment where children can study, discover their potentials, and hone their skills and talents. We need to keep our schools lead safe as lead is particularly dangerous to the developing brains of children,” said Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“There is no known safe level of lead exposure. Even low levels of lead exposure may cause lifetime health issues such as learning disabilities, impaired language skills, reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), and behavioral problems. Health risks to children, pregnant women, and workers can be prevented by making and using lead safe paints,” added Jeiel Guarino, lead paint campaigner of IPEN, a global NGO network that counts on the EcoWaste Coalition among its members.
EcoWaste also said that the compulsory use of paints without added lead is also directed by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Memorandum Circular 2018-26 on the “Mandatory Use of Lead Safe Paints by LGUs,” as well as Quezon City Ordinance 2739-2018, which requires the mandatory procurement and use of certified lead safe paints including enamels, glazes, lacquers, primers, stains, varnishes, and other surface coatings for the city government-funded projects.
To further ensure that the Brigada Eskwela is pollution-free, the EcoWaste stressed the importance of observing basic practices in ecological solid waste management.
“We urge Brigada Eskwela participants to be on the guard against improper disposal of waste resulting from the weeklong cleanup activities. Please refrain from mixing discards and from dumping and burning them as these are against DepEd’s policy and R.A. 9003,” concluded Dizon.