Ensure school furnishings are toxic-free, DepEd toldBy Matikas Santos
MANILA, Philippines – An environment advocacy group called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to ensure that bidders will provide lead-free school furnishings for children.
“We call upon (DepEd) Secretary Armin Luistro to ensure that no lead-contaminated furniture that could expose children to harm would be purchased using the taxpayers’ money and brought to the classrooms,” Thony Dizon, Ecowaste Coalition’s “Project Protect” Coordinator, said in a statement Thursday.
“DepEd should require bidders to provide chairs and tables that comply with standard and supported with a conformity certification,” Dizon said.
Children who were exposed to lead may experience brain damage “and cause reduced IQ and school performance,” he added.
Ecowaste Coalition examined school chairs and tables during the last Brigada Eskwela project and found incredibly high lead content levels in several school furniture of different schools.
In a public school in Cavite, a student’s chair was found to have a lead content of 1,007 parts per million (ppm). A teacher’s table was found to contain 3,155 ppm of lead, Ecowaste Coalition said.
Chairs and tables in a day care center also in Cavite were found to contain 13,600 ppm of lead. The normal level of lead content in furniture, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, is only 90 ppm, Ecowaste said.
Ecowaste said that it “also found 187 ppm of lead in a student’s chair, 3,574 ppm in a teacher’s chair and 3,648 ppm in a teacher’s table in one day-care center in Quezon City.”
Lead is a toxic element that has been found to damage the developing brain and nervous system, Ecowaste said. It is among the World Health Organization’s “Top 10 Chemicals of Major Public Health Concern.”
Ecowaste Coalition, citing the WHO, said that “children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage.”
“Childhood lead exposure is estimated to contribute to about 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year,” the WHO was quoted as saying.
The Department of Budget and Management has recently released P941.3 million to the DepEd from the 2012 General Appropriations Act.
The amount will be used to procure 45 arm chairs and a chair-table set for every classroom of public elementary and high school that lack the equipment, Ecowaste, citing government data, said.