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Schools warned vs awarding top students with lead-tainted medals


06:59 PM February 18th, 2013

February 18th, 2013 06:59 PM

MANILA, Philippines–Consumer safety and environmental watch group EcoWaste Coalition on Monday cautioned schools against awarding lead-tainted medals to academic achievers, who could possibly lose their brain power through exposure to the toxic metal.

The coalition’s Task Force on Chemical Safety detected lead way above the allowable limit in 22 of 30 medals bought from manufacturers in the Sta. Cruz and Quiapo districts in Manila. Most of the medals were for preschoolers and elementary pupils, two of them bearing the Department of Education logo.

EcoWaste alerted officials in private and public schools, as well as child care and learning centers, to be wary of the medals they will award to their students in graduation rites next month, saying that lead can cause permanent brain injury. The group in particular warned against awards made of lead alloy or those coated in lead-based paint.

They pointed out that even very low levels of lead can cause brain damage in children and urged school officials to advise the young recipients of medals not to “play with, bite, lick or suck” on the award to avoid ingestion of or exposure to lead.

“We find it odd that lead, a nasty chemical linked to delayed development, stunted growth, reduced IQ scores and behavioral problems, is used in making medals that are meant to savor a child’s academic and extra-curricular achievements,” said Aileen Lucero of EcoWaste in a statement.

Lucero added: “Experts have not identified a safe threshold for lead exposure, especially among kids. This is why we insist that children’s products, including medals, school supplies and toys, should be certified lead-free. We need to take every possible step to reduce lead exposure among our children.”

In tests conducted by the group using an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, EcoWaste found the toxic metal in 22 of 30 samples way above the allowable limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for lead in paint or on any similar surface coatings. No lead was detected in unpainted generic gold, silver, and bronze medals.

EcoWaste said that a yellow-painted medal had 123,800 ppm of lead while others had levels from 37,000 ppm to 74,400 ppm. Two “unofficial” DepEd medals each had lead levels at 943 ppm and 14,100 ppm.

Lucero called on the DepEd to take steps in instructing schools to only award medals that are “child-safe” or those that are not tainted with lead and other toxic chemicals.

According to the World Health Organization lead, at high levels of acute exposure, attacks the brain and central nervous system and can cause coma, convulsions and even death.

“The consequences of brain injury from exposure to lead in early life are loss of intelligence, shortening of attention span and disruption of behavior because the human brain has little capacity for repair, these effects are untreatable and irreversible,” the WHO further said.

The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.

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