DepEd, BAN Toxics inked for Toxic-Free Schools campaign

The Department of Education (DepEd) collaborated with environmental group BAN Toxics (BT) as they aimed to prevent poisoning of school children and keep schools safe from toxic chemicals.

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Education Secretary Br. Armin A. Luistro FSC and BT executive director Atty. Richard Gutierrez signed the memorandum of agreement Friday at the DepEd’s Bulwagan ng Karunungan. The said partnership aims to establish awareness of toxic chemicals in the school environment and make schools safe for children through various awareness campaigns. “We welcome this partnership as another step to in making schools child-friendly and truly safe for learning,” Luistro said.

The information campaign will highlight the “Fearsome Five” toxic substances that might be present in schools: mercury, lead, cadmium, asbestos, and arsenic. The information will be disseminated through teachers’ trainings, forums, lectures, exhibits, and student activities. “We need to take action to stop the slow poisoning of children particularly in schools where they spend a lot of time,” said Gutierrez.

The “Fearsome Five” pose serious health risks to children. These harmful substances are present in some items and materials normally used by children such as crayons, markers and school bags. They also hide in furniture and wall paints, lights, fixtures, cleaning materials and the like, possibly exposing children to harm on a daily basis.

The Toxics-Free Schools Program (TFSP) promotes practical solutions and alternatives that the school, parents, and students can use to avoid, or minimize exposure to health and environmental risks.

Meanwhile, schoolteachers and education personnel will be trained to be more pro-active on the issue of environmental toxins.

There will be  TFSP manual developed by DepEd and BT to be integrated in the school curricula. Student groups will also be organized to further promote awareness on the issue.

“Teachers and school personnel are critical partners in this endeavour. They have a big role in disseminating information and raising awareness, especially on sensitive issues such as toxic poisoning. They are the first line of defense, so it is imperative that they know how to protect our children and themselves from toxic harm,” Gutierrez added.