Toxics watchdog urges mayors to check school bags for lead

A TOXICS watchdog called on local government units (LGUs), particularly to town and city mayors, to conduct a lead test  for give-away school bags for their young constituents.

The EcoWaste Coalition aired the appeal as some LGUs prepare to hand out school bags and other basic supplies to needy students in government schools.

Their appeal to local authorities was prompted by the results of the group’s latest X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analysis on May 28 of an old LGU-provided backpack and four new backpacks with cartoon characters purchased from Divisoria vendors on May 27.

The blue and yellow used backpack from one LGU in Metro Manila had lead up to 2,373 parts per million (ppm) way above the 90 ppm limit under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, while three of the four backpacks from Divisoria had lead up to 409 ppm.

“Guided by the saying ‘it’s better to be safe than sorry,’ we urge our mayors to screen school bags and supplies for harmful substances such as lead before these are distributed to the children,” suggested Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“There is no safe level of exposure to lead, especially among young and defenseless children,” she stated.

“As their developing brains are very much at risk to lead toxicity, we must ensure that children’s environment, including the articles they use to learn and play with, is safe from lead and other pollutants,” she said.

“Primary prevention is key to ensuring that our children do not suffer from the often irreversible effects of lead exposure,” she emphasized.

Lead  is a dangerous poison that can retard the development of a child’s developing central nervous system and permanently damage the brain even at low levels of exposure, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The effects of lead poisoning in most cases are not immediately seen and there usually are no obvious symptoms until the lead level in blood is very high, the group noted.

According to health studies, childhood lead exposure can result to a broad range of serious developmental and behavioral problems, including reading and learning disabilities, inattentiveness, hyperactivity and irritability, lower IQ and poor school performance.

Lead can enter a human body through the inhalation or ingestion of lead particles or dust from chipping or flaking paints in homes, playgrounds, schools and other facilities as well as from lead-containing products such as toys and cosmetics and lead-glazed or lead-painted glasses, mugs and dishes.

The improper recycling or disposal of lead-containing discards such as electronic waste also contributes to environmental contamination and human exposure to lead, the group said.

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