DepEd purges public schools of toxic gadgetsBy Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Education (DepEd) is fast-tracking the removal of gadgets and other learning equipment suspected of containing toxic materials from public schools, officials said on Thursday.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro said the department has taken steps to phase out the wire gauze, a flat wire mesh that holds up the flask atop a Bunsen burner in science laboratories.
According to the DepEd, the gauze is known to contain “three percent chrysotile asbestos,” exposure to which raises cancer risk.
While already banned in 54 countries, asbestos remains a “regulated and controlled” material in the Philippines, according to the Associated Labor Unions (ALU), which raised with the DepEd the issue of the continued use of asbestos-made wire gauze in schools.
“We have done the same in the case of mercury and mercury-laden gadgets and equipment, which is being phased out in all Philippine schools, including school clinics,” said Luistro in a statement.
“Part of our mandate is to ensure that the learning environment does not pose any kind of threat to the well-being of our students and school officials,” he said.
Luistro said the department is now looking into procuring wire gauze that is made of safe material.
The DepEd is already implementing an asbestos management plan that obliges school officials “to regularly check asbestos levels” and track the location of asbestos-made tools in schools.
“DepEd will be issuing a memorandum to all schools on the proper handling and disposal of wire gauzes,” he said.
The ALU earlier called on the DepEd to protect the school community from the ill effects of asbestos in school equipment.
In a letter to Luistro last month, ALU noted that asbestos-made wire gauze was still in use in the schools despite its known health risks.
The group commended the DepEd for “heeding and acting swiftly on our call,” calling the department’s move a “progressive response” to its concern over the use of cancerous materials.