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Toxics-Free Schools Program launched.

Manila, Philippines -- To establish awareness of toxic chemicals in the school environment and initiate means to prevent toxic poisoning of children, teachers and administrative staff in schools, the Department of Education (DepEd) launched on January 17 the implementation of the Toxics-Free Schools Program (TSFP).

In partnership with environmental group BAN Toxics (BT), the DepEd will strengthen its campaign against the use of toxic chemicals in schools by establishing an awareness campaign that will focus on making the school environment safe for children. "We welcome this partnership as another step in making schools child-friendly and truly safe for learning," Education Secretary Armin Luistro said.

In a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signing between DepEd through Undersecretary for Programs and Projects Dina Ocampo-Cristobal and BT Chief Operations Officer Marietta Marciano, both parties reiterated their commitment to ensure that all students will not be poisoned by toxic chemicals while they are inside the school through the TSFP.

Marciano explained there is challenge to provide a safe and healthy school surrounding for the youth. "Students and other members of the academic community are at risk due to exposure from ubiquitous toxic substances in everyday products and devices that are used in schools and homes," she said. These toxic chemicals, she added, "are harmful for children since they are more vulnerable compared to adults." Some of the effects of toxics children's health may include childhood cancer, asthma, and learning disabilities among others.

BT's flagship program, Marciano said, is the Mercury-Free Schools Program (MSFP) which was conceived after the mercury-spill incident in a ParaAaAaAeA~aq City school in 2006. "The TSFP is a spin-off of our flagship program which aims to continue the school awareness program by extending toxics discussion to numerous substances that are found on schools, homes, and community," she added.

Marciano said that the objectives of the TSFP is to "increase awareness on the issue of toxics pollution in school and homes; engage the school community and parents towards preventive action; promote alternatives that are safe, affordable, and environment friendly and develop practical solutions on how to properly manage toxic-containing products and wastes."

The TSFP will also highlight the so-called "Fearsome Five" toxic substances that might be present in schools including mercury, lead, cadmium, asbestos, and arsenic. These toxic substances, Marciano said, "may be present in some items and materials normally used by children such as crayons, markers, and school bags" and may also hide in furniture and wall paints, lights, fixtures, cleaning materials, and the like "possibly exposing children to harm on a daily basis."

According to DepEd Health and Nutrition Council (HNC) Officer in Charge Dr. Juan Araojo, the TSFP in its first year of launch for school year 2014-2015 will identify target sites for the project and will prioritize the NCR, Region V and CAR.

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Title Annotation:Metro
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Jan 17, 2014
Words:466
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