THE Department of Education (DepEd) partnered with an environmental group to train teachers in raising awareness on toxic chemicals on Friday.

DepEd Secretary Br. Armin Luistro and lawyer Richard Gutierrez, executive director of BanToxics (BT) signed the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) of Toxics-free Schools Program (TFSP) which aims to educate the teachers and the students of the poisonous materials that can be found in schools where children spend most of their time and its bad effects in the body.

“We welcome this partnership as another step in making schools child-friendly and truly safe for learning,” Luistro said.

In an interview, BT Chief Operations Officer (COO) Marie Marciano said that toxic substances they tagged as the “Fearsome Five” including mercury, lead, cadmium, asbestos and arsenic can be found in art materials, bags, other educational materials, furniture, wall paints, lights, fixtures and cleaning materials on which children have direct contact.

“The ‘Fearsome Five’ can be [very] harmful for everyone. Ang mga ito ay lason na maaring makaapekto sa kalusugan ng isang tao once makain o ma-inhale,” she said.

Marciano cited the incident happened in a school in Paranaque three years ago where accidentally, mercury substance spilled out in a middle of a science laboratory class.

After mercury ingestion, a student suffered from an illness which later developed into Parkinson’s disease.

According to BT, “Fearless Five” once ingested can cause various illnesses such as abnormalities in heart rhythm, damage in the blood vessels, kidney, nervous system and the brain, decrease of bone strength, lung cancer and other respiratory disorder.

The TFSP will promote solutions and alternatives that the school, parents and students can use to avoid or minimize exposure to health and environmental risks.

School teachers and education personnel will be trained to be more pro-active on the issue of environmental toxins.

“May manual na dinevelop ang DepEd at BanToxics na ipapamigay namin sa mga teachers sa lahat ng schools. The manual will also be integrated in school curricula. We will train teachers to train ang iba pang teachers. May mga groups din na pupunta sa mga school para i-promote ang awareness sa mga toxins na nakakamatay,” Marciano said.

“Hindi lang ito sa mga schools. Imi-meet din naming ang mga small scale miners and other business firm na nagiging source ng mga poisonous toxins para himukin sila na gumamit ng ibang hindi nakakalason na substance sa mga ginagawa nila,” she added.

Marciano said that Benguet, where mining is one of the main sources of income, is now 95 percent mercury-free after they had given them lectures on the harm it can bring.

TFSP was supported by the Swedish Society of Nature Conservation. (Sunnex)