Prevent and reduce lead hazards in school makeovers | Inquirer Opinion

Prevent and reduce lead hazards in school makeovers

/ 12:02 AM April 10, 2014

Education Secretary Armin Luistro is right in inviting donors to consider total makeovers of target public schools (“Do school makeovers, Luistro asks donors,” News, 3/24/14). To be sure, many of our public schools require complete makeovers to make them conducive to learning. But renovations, especially those involving repainting jobs, must be done safely to ensure the health and safety of our children and the workers themselves.

Some of our school facilities may have doors, windows, ceilings, walls, chairs, tables and play equipment coated with lead paint. So any repair and renovation work must be carefully planned and carried out with the wellbeing of the children and workers in mind.

Disturbing surfaces covered with lead paint—by cutting, dry sanding and scraping or torching—will disperse hazardous chips and dust into the surroundings, posing real health risk, especially to young children. Kids can swallow the lead dust as they play and put their hands into their mouths, or even inhale the lead dust, which is often invisible.

According to “The Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right,” published by the US Environmental Protection Agency, “lead in dust is the most common way people are exposed to lead” and that “lead is especially dangerous to children under six years of age.” Lead can affect children’s brains and developing nervous systems, causing reduced IQ,  learning disabilities and  behavioral problems, such that even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies, the guide said.

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Pregnant teachers and school workers exposed to lead may transfer lead to the fetuses, causing irreparable damage, especially to their developing brains.

Workers not trained on proper lead paint removal can ingest and breathe the lead dust, and even expose their families to such harmful dust through their work clothes and shoes.

Banning lead paint in schools and crafting a practical guide to prevent and reduce lead hazards during school renovations are necessary to make the makeovers safe for everyone, especially for children who are most susceptible to lead exposure.

—JEIEL GUARINO,

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EcoWaste Coalition,

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TAGS: Armin Luistro, education, pregnancy, public schools

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