Public playgrounds hazardous to kids
Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon (The Freeman) - October 21, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — High levels of lead, a potent neurotoxin, have been discovered on public playground equipment in the cities of Cebu, Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue and the municipality of Consolacion.

According to the Ecowaste Coalition, the painted play equipment containing dangerous amounts of lead poses a serious lead poisoning risk for young children, prompting environmental health advocates to call for the effective enforcement of the ban on lead in all paints, especially for applications that can expose children to lead contamination.

The coalition sounded the alarm over lead painted play equipment as the UN-backed International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is observed from October 20-26 with focus on eliminating lead paint.

In the report “Lead in Playground Equipment in the Philippines,” 50 of  55 play equipment the group had analyzed, including those from Cebu Province, had total lead concentrations above 90 parts per million (ppm), the limit the DENR had set in A.O. 2013-24 and reiterated by EMB M.C. 2016-010.

The coalition said that in addition, 42 of such lead-coated playground equipment had dangerously high lead levels above 10,000 ppm.  Multi-layered lead painted surfaces were found to be most hazardous with lead levels reaching hundreds of thousands.

“An old multi-coated swing at the People’s Park in Barangay Poblacion, Lapu-Lapu City, for example, was found to contain 176,100 ppm of lead,” the coalition said in a statement.

The coalition said that it will formally write to the concerned local government units in Cebu Province to notify them about the results and to suggest  remedial actions, including replacing the lead-coated play equipment with lead-safe ones, to prevent childhood lead exposure.

“The high levels of lead detected on the paint of outdoor playground equipment are very worrisome and unacceptable.  The paint will deteriorate with repeated use and exposure to sun and rain.  This will cause the paint to peel and get into the dust and soil, which can be ingested by children through common hand-to-mouth behavior,” said Thony Dizon, the coalition’s chemical safety campaigner.

Jeiel Guarino, Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaigner, in the same statement, said that lead-containing dust and soil is the major pathway by which lead in paint contributes to children’s lead exposure, which can adversely affect their health throughout their lives.

Guarino said that the findings of the coalition should trigger a review as to how the country’s lead paint regulations are being enforced and how these can be strengthened.

“The dangerous levels of lead detected on mostly old multi-coated play equipment should prompt the authorities into developing a national strategy and program addressing the toxic legacy of lead paint, especially exposed lead paint in places where children live, study and play,”  said Manny Calonzo, the coalition’s adviser.

The said report, prepared in collaboration with IPEN, a global network of public interest NGOs for a toxics-free future, highlights the importance of urgent actions to enforce the ban on lead paint for all purposes, especially for decorations and coatings on products that can contaminate children’s environment.

The study was undertaken to raise public awareness about the presence of lead paint in children’s playgrounds and persuade the authorities to take decisive actions, including the implementation of lead paint regulations and the promotion of safety measures to reduce lead dust hazards when old lead painted play equipment are renovated, repainted or replaced. (FREEMAN)

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