Lead-containing paints are no longer allowed to be used in schools nationwide, as dictated by a January 18 order from the Department of Education (DepEd).
From now on only certified lead-safe paints can be used in classrooms, school facilities (like playgrounds and covered courts) and furniture and fixtures (such as tables, chairs, blackboards, and gates.). Education secretary Leonor Briones adds that learning materials -- school supplies, teaching aids and toys -- should also be lead-free. So what’s so bad about lead? A lot, and children below 6 years old are the most vulnerable. Lead can profoundly affect children’s growth and development, cause behavioral problems, and damage health, as mentioned by Sec. Briones. This is why many organizations have put in great effort to ban lead products and spread information about this toxic chemical.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), high levels of lead exposure in children can impair their brain and central nervous system, causing a coma, convulsions, and even death. At lower exposure levels, lead is a silent enemy. It will have no obvious symptoms. But even a small amount of lead can attack multiple body systems causing serious health problems over time, says Mayo Clinic. These include:
Learning difficulties and disabilities
Reduced attention span
Increased antisocial behavior
There is no known safe level of lead exposure, says WHO, and “the neurological and behavioural effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.” In 2013, an estimated 853,000 deaths were caused by lead exposure’s long-term effects on health, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Lead, a naturally occurring toxic chemical, is present in products including paints, stained glass, jewelry, toys, and some cosmetics. Water pipes made with lead, which were widely used in the past, can contaminate the water used for drinking and cooking. Houses and classrooms that use lead paint can release tiny dust particles that becomes dangerous when inhaled. Doors and window frames can also spread tiny particles of lead dust every time they’re opened or closed. Check your house for peeling paint as well. If your babies crawl on the floor that may have lead paint, they can ingest it when they put their fingers in their mouths. It’s another reason to practice regular hand washing.
“Although there are several exposure sources, lead-based paint is the most widespread and dangerous high-dose source of lead exposure for young children,” says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
When buying toys, always check the packaging. As a good measure, be wary of painted wooden toys unless it is certified that the paint used is lead-free and non-toxic. Lead have also been found in a number of toy jewelries.
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The CDC advises regularly wet-mopping floors and wet-wiping windows to rid of household dust, which is a major source of lead. Do this every two to three weeks.