PASIG CITY–The Department of Education (DepEd) has ordered an investigation into the mercury leak incident at the Manila Science High School and the continued monitoring of the condition of students, teachers, and personnel directly and indirectly exposed to the substance.
A media release issued by the department Saturday stated that Schools Division Superintendent Wilfredo Cabral has verified that teachers and students will undergo tests to be conducted jointly by the East Avenue Medical Center and the Manila City Health Office (MCHO).
Based on the monitoring of nurses of Manila’s Schools Division Office (SDO), the two teachers and the two students who were exposed to the chemical have not manifested any sign of either dizziness or difficulty in breathing. Furthermore, the teacher reported to have been admitted to the Philippine General Hospital was not confined.
According to the release, industrial waste disposal specialist, Globecare, has completed the cleanup and is expected to submit a report to SDO Manila. Cabral is also awaiting reports from the Department of Health (DOH) and the Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Bureau of Fire Protection, DOH, MCHO, and the East Avenue Medical Center have also conducted their own assessments.
Based on the report of Manila Science High principal Eva Nacion to Cabral, 60 ml. of mercury from a Charles’ Law apparatus spilled on the corridor of the school’s laboratory room last March 18, prompting the Science teachers to clean the spill immediately on their own.
The following day, the area was inspected to ensure that no traces of mercury were left. The teachers then reported the incident to Nacion, who asked about the teachers’ condition and how the spill was disposed of. On March 20, the area was isolated, and Nacion sought the assistance of DepEd Manila Health Services and informed the MCHO of the incident. Classes remained suspended as of Friday.
The education department’s Order No. 48 (2006) or the Observance of Safety Measures in Science Laboratories, sets strict guidelines on the safe handling, storage, and disposal of chemicals in schools and the immediate reporting of all accidents, whether or not these result in an injury.
Proper authorities, such as the environment, health, and science and technology departments must also be informed immediately for the expert management of the emergency situation.
The Order also instructs Science teachers to ensure that students are informed of the hazards and trained in the safe handling and use of equipment and chemicals.
School heads should also implement stringent security and safety measures in the use of science laboratories. A full-time laboratory technician or a Science teacher should be assigned to take charge of the laboratories.