“As classes resume, we ramp up efforts to ensure our children and teachers are safe from toxic exposure and schools aggressively promote safe and environment-friendly alternatives, and sound chemicals and waste management,” said Thony Dizon, Toxics Campaigner of BAN Toxics.
Environmental group BAN Toxics and Toro Hills Elementary School (THES) in Quezon City launched the Toxic-Free and Waste-Free Brigada Eskwela as the Department of Education (DepEd) conducts its annual Brigada Eskwela 2023 campaign. The theme for this year is “Bayanihan para sa matatag na paaralan.”
About 500 students, teachers, parents, local officials, and community partners participated in the event, which was highlighted by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on the Toxic-Free and Waste-Free School Program (TFSP) between THES and Ban Toxics following a clean-up drive.
“We need the support of different stakeholders and non-government organizations like BAN Toxics to promote a safe and healthy school environment for our students and teachers,” says Antonio Miranda, Principal of Toro Hills Elementary School in Quezon City.
The Toxic-Free and Waste-Free School Program (TFSP) is a campaign of BAN Toxics started in 2014 to encourage educational institutions to adopt sound chemicals and waste management in their operations and develop school-based awareness to protect the students and faculty members from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals and hazardous wastes. Some of the toxic chemicals that may be present in schools include lead, mercury, phthalates, cadmium, and arsenic. Exposure to these chemicals pose serious health risks to children and school personnel.
The program also promotes proper waste management both in school and at home. This includes proper waste segregation, implementing the 3Rs, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, urban gardening and composting, and minimization of single-use plastics usage.
TFSP is anchored on institutionalizing the national policies and guidelines including the National Environmental Awareness Act of 2008, the Commission on Human Rights’ The People’s Right to Chemical Safety: A Fifteen Point Human Rights Agenda, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Orders on Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, and Arsenic, DepEd order on Mandatory use of lead-safe paints in school and DepEd’s memorandum on the Integration of Gulayan sa Paaralan, Solid Waste Management and Tree Planting under the National Greening Program.
“We thus enjoin schools and academic institutions to incorporate TFSP and similar initiatives into their curriculum and practice to protect them against the negative effects of chemicals and wastes that could be found in schools, aside from communities and homes,” added Dizon.
“Brigada Eskwela should not be a one-time event, ensuring that the schools are safe and environment-friendly should be prioritized. We call the attention of the Department of Education to adopt a system approach to be able to protect the students, teachers, and school personnel from everyday exposure to toxic and waste,” the group said.